SURABAYA, Indonesia, October 12, 2023 (Morning Star News)
Bowing to pressure from Islamic protestors, local officials in South Sulawesi Province, Indonesia, have vowed to withdraw permission that had been granted to build a Christian school, sources said.
In the town of Parepare, the district representative council had granted permission for the construction of the school as the Gamaliel Christian School Foundation had completed all requirements, but the council promised to withdraw the permission after a demonstration on Friday (Oct. 6) including a banned Islamic extremist group, according to legionnews.com.
Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, or FPI), banned since December 2020, participated in the march through the city along with hundreds of area residents, Muslim leaders, and members of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals (Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim Indonesia, or ICMI) and the Soreang Society Alliance, arriving at the office of the district representative council, according to detik.com.
As a result of the protest, Parepare’s representative council promised to withdraw the permits to build the Christian school, saying it could potentially cause friction, according to legionnews.com. In Indonesia, such promises by officials to Islamic groups can be tantamount to an official decision, but the council has issued no letter of revocation of permission.
A video widely viewed online shows some participants unfurling banners that read, “Rejecting the Construction of the Gamaliel Soreang Christian School,” among others. Demonstrators shouted, “Refuse the permit, revoke the permit,” and some orators called on the government to do the same.
“We are the most tolerant people – Muslims need no education on tolerance,” said one orator. “We live in a neighborhood with non-Muslims and provide food to each other; we never disturb others’ worship, but it is intolerance if you build a Christian school in a majority Muslim community.”
At the Parepare city representative council office, the protestors were greeted by the chairman of the council, two deputies, and a council member identified only as Kamaluddin.
“The residents refused because the majority of people there were Muslims, and they said the permission was not clear, according to the residents who held the demonstration,” Kamaludin said, according to detik.com. “We are trying to avoid any conflict in the community.”
Opposition began mounting when hundreds of residents on Sept. 30 gathered at the Al Amin Mosque in Soreang Permai Estate, Parepare and signed a statement opposing the construction of the school, according to znews.com.
The construction of the Gamaliel Christian School had been legally authorized, bnn.com reported.
The deputy chairman of the Gamaliel Christian Education Foundation, Sinta (who goes by a single name), confirmed that her institution had obtained the necessary permits for construction in line with all relevant regulations and approved by authorities.
In the face of the protest and the promised revocation of the building permit, Sinta said the foundation would not dare build the school without legal permission from the government.
“We have fulfilled all [permits] before building,” Sinta told detik.com on Saturday (Oct. 7), adding that the building permit process was not as problematic as residents claimed.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute, which advocates democracy and human rights in Indonesia, particularly religious freedom, said the case was “a clear sign of state subordination to the will of the intolerant groups.”
“Local political constellations and electoral interests, in gaining support from the masses, make public officials choose sides and accommodate the demands of intolerant groups,” Bonar told Morning Star News. “They intentionally ignore it, even though it is considered to violate the constitution.”
Indonesia ranked 33rd on the Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Indonesian society has adopted a more conservative Islamic character, and churches involved in evangelistic outreach are at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremist groups, according to the WWL report.
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Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Frank Ramspott
Originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.
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