Sharia forbids the construction of new churches, and Indonesia's permit system has become an informal, but highly effective means of preventing the building of non-Muslim houses of worship across the country (see our archives for years of stories on the permit system). This congregation appears to have defied the Catch-22 authorities tried to set up: they were banned from celebrating Christmas because they didn't have a "proper place of worship." And they can't get a proper place of worship for lack of a permit.
So they found a parking lot. Here, however, the future potential for the story to parallel that of the Christians of Bekasi, who could not worship safely even in an open field, is alarming. But to hear Indonesia's president talk about it, one would think it were a suburban homeowner's association dispute.
The inaction on both the permit system and the violence rewards and encourages the Islamic supremacists, and so they will carry on. "West Java: Catholics celebrate Christmas Mass in a parking lot," by Mathias Hariyadi for AsiaNews, December 27:
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of members of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Parung (West Java) celebrated Mass under the sun and in a tent set up in the parking lot of the Marsudirini Elementary School. Bogor Regency chief's prohibition of Christmas celebration was thus not repealed despite repeated attempts by Tulang Kuning Church leaders to negotiate with local authorities.
The latter justified their decision citing the lack of a permit to build a church. Without it, the local parish is not allowed to perform any public functions even on its own land.
According to Indonesia's constitution however, no one has the right to prohibit any religious community from practicing its faith and celebrating its rites and services. Yet with the rising influence of Islamic radicals, the constitution has been repeatedly violated as local authorities kowtow to Muslim extremists and show greater hostilities towards Christians.
The Parish of Saint John the Baptist has at least 3,000 members. In April of this year, dozens of Muslim extremists threatened those from the community in Tulang Kuning, preventing them from celebrating Easter Mass.