Muthia Kusuma, Jakarta – National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) Commissioner Choirul Anam has noted a number of reports related to alleged human rights violations involving the desecration of religion which have still not be resolved.
This involves incidents related to the construction of houses of worship in Aceh Singkil, the GKI Yasmin Church in Bogor and several other regions outside of Java.
In the context of freedom of religion and worship however, the poor report card from Komnas HAM mostly relates to the construction of houses of worship.
Based on Komnas HAM’s records, said Anam, building a house of worship is actually more difficult than building a discotheque, because it runs up against the problematic Joint Ministerial Regulation (PBM) by the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is often used as a justification by intolerant groups.
“Yes, so this regulation must be changed. And emphasised in the regulation also is the basis of a real need. Now, it is this real needs basis which must be reemphasised as the basis of the problem. Not the figures. The figures are only complementary. Moreover if the figures were abolished it also wouldn’t matter. What’s most important is just two things, one the real need, and second the construction must defer to construction in the public interest”, he said at a seminar titled “Restoring Pluralism, Strengthening the Pancasila State” at the Ashley Hotel in Central Jakarta on Monday November 11.
Anam said that the establishment of houses of worship which are affordable and in areas that are not dangerous or toxic must be without a quota. Moreover, he continued, everyone has the right to construct a house of worship.
Anam said that the reason for this is that establishing a house of worship represents a good deed, not for something else. In reality however, constructing a house of worship often runs in to problems, such as opposition from a majority of the community or from regional governments.
“Because of this, the big PR (homework) for us is to resolve this. So the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Home Affairs must get together, sit down together and review the PBM. And emphasise that the real needs basis is the principle basis in the context of establishing a house of worship. Because establishing a house of worship is something which is tied to the issue”, he said in short.
The 2006 Joint Ministerial Decree on Houses of Worship issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs obliges a congregation to ensure approval from at least 60 households in the immediate vicinity of a planned new site. That stipulation, however, has been lambasted by rights groups as making it next to impossible for congregations of minority faiths to build houses of worship in Muslim-majority areas. In many of the recent cases where churches have been sealed off or construction permits refused – even when congregations have fulfilled the requirements – hard-line religious groups have moved in claiming to represent the interest of the local community and blocked construction or pressured local government to do so.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Komnas HAM: Lebih Mudah Bangun Diskotik Dibanding Rumah Ibadah”.]