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Faiths take joint stand against new decree JAKARTA - Christian leaders and members of the Ahmadiyah group presented a united stand Friday in opposing the revised decree on places of worship, and threatened to ignore it unless it is changed to meet their demands. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), meanwhile, is also dismayed by what it considers the disproportional accommodation of other religions.

Several Ahmadiyah and Christian leaders announced Friday they planned to seek judicial review with the Supreme Court because the decree contravenes the Constitution, disregards human rights and would sow religious discord. "The decree can pit people of different religions against each other," said Alma Shephard Supit of the Peace Forum, a grouping of Catholic, orthodox and Bethel Pentecostal Church leaders with representatives of Ahmadiyah.

He said the country's Constitution does not recognize a joint ministerial decree. "We urge the government to scrap it altogether. We may well call for (acts of) disobedience," Alma said. Religious Affairs Minister M. Maftuh Basyuni and Home Minister M. Ma'ruf signed the revised joint ministerial decree Tuesday, which replaced one issued in 1969. The former decree was controversial because it required consent of local administrations and a large number of residents in the areas to build houses of worship.

Minority religions complain the decree has been used to discriminate against them. In the past two years, 23 churches in West Java alone have been forcibly shut down on the grounds that the buildings lacked permits. Critics worry the new decree's requirements will make it even more difficult for them to worship, and contend the state has no right to regulate the basic right to practice one's faith.

The decree rules that new places of worship must have congregations of a minimum of 90 people, and receive consent of 60 people of other faiths living in the area. There also is a requirement to obtain permits from the local administration and the Communication Forum for Religious Harmony. Daniel Biantoro of the Orthodox Church said the decree heightened mistrust among people of different religious faiths.

"We used to live in perfect harmony in a neighborhood. But now we are suspicious of each other," he said. Mubarik Ahmad, spokesman for Ahmadiyah which is considered a heretical strict by Islamic organizations, said the requirement on the minimum number of congregation members was ridiculous. "In Islam, as few as three people are considered enough to hold a mass Friday prayers. And every religious group has their own logic. We won't build a large building if we have a small congregation," he said.

MUI, a staunch advocate of the old decree, said the government had given in to minority demands. "We proposed the minimum congregation of 100 families. But then it was reduced to 100 people, and now it is 90 people. Who is satisfied? Of course, we want more than that," the council's fatwa commission head Ma'ruf Amin told detik.com news portal Thursday.

The council also objected to the stipulation which mandates the government issue a temporary permit for a place of worship in an area where the number of the congregation is below the minimum. Ma'ruf added the MUI was resigned to accepting the decree, because it was formulated from input from all religious groups. Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra asked the public to allow for the implementation of the decree, which he believed was needed to maintain religious harmony. "It doesn't mean that people don't have the right to worship their religion," said the rector of Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University.



Posted in Politics @ 25 March 2006 11:17 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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