Java Muslims force closure of church

Muslims on the western outskirts of Jakarta have successfully protested the legality of a Church, forcing its closure and putting a halt to further religious activity.

Christ’s Peace Church, which has been active since 1968 and has over 4000 parishioners, has never had a legal permit, despite repeated attempts to seek one.

Asia News reports the protests by local Muslims – backed by police and politicians - was sparked when plans for a new church were put forward.

Officials said the priest did not possess a permit to build a place of worship but only a house.

The chapel started out as a multi-function room of a Catholic school run by the Mother of Sacred Heart Foundation. As the Catholic congregation in the area grew, the space turned into a small church.

Parish priest Fr Matthew Widyalestari MSC, confirmed the episode and said all activities were halted for “the sake of the community.”

A group calling themselves Cooperation Forum for Mosque, Prayer Rooms and Koranic Recital Group of Duri Selatan headed the protest which culminated in the church closure.

“They forcibly asked us to sign a document agreeing to halt all activity,” Fr Widyalestari said.

“If we rejected the proposal then they said they would not be responsible if vandalism took place”.

The removal of all religious symbols was also demanded, but Fr Widyalestari said they “strongly rejected the idea”.

After 40 years a Catholic Church in West Java is forced to close (Asia News, 28/11/07)

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