Fernando Simanjuntak planned to marry his sweetheart Lucianda at Pantekosta Church at Jatinangor, West Java, on 24 September 2011. He had set up a wedding at the church from months ago.
The plan was only a story now. Two days before the wedding day, Jatinangor sub-district’s head Nandang Suparman suggested him to move the ceremony, as a hard-line Islamic group threatened them to attack the ceremony.
The Jatinangor police chief offered the couple to hold the wedding procession at the hall of the sub-district administration’s office. “FPI said that they would mess up the ceremony if the couple insisted to stage their wedding procession at the church. That was the reason why I recommended them to hold the ceremony at the sub-district administration’s office,” Nandang said.
Luciana’s family then decided to move the ceremony to Tasikmalaya. They could not bear pressures that came up before the wedding day.
The horror was a nightmare for Fernando and Luciana. On the day they pledged their oath before Priest Bernhard, the head of the Pantekosta Church at Jatinangor, at a church at Tasikmalaya, mobs came to the Pantekosta Church at Jatinangor. The mobs staged a rally in front of the church, they even tried to make its entrance gate collapse.
“They thought that we held the wedding procession at the church. They didn’t know that we moved the wedding’s venue to Tasikmalaya,” Priest Bernhard explained.
Priest Bernhard assumed that the head of Mekargalih Village, where the Pantekosta Church is located, deployed the mobs to attack the church. Members of the church testified that they saw Arief Saefuloh, the village head, standing behind the church at the time the attack took place.
Bernhard’s wife, Corry, has the same assumption. She thought that Arief paid the mobs to cave in the church’s gate. “When this church was built, the head village had disturb the construction process. He left us in peace after he was lent two million rupiah from us. Now he is disturbing us again, I thought he would ask more money from us,” said Corry.
The first attack toward the church happened on 17 July 2011. Priest Bernhard Maukar was presiding the morning mass when he received a phone call from Sumedang police chief, Sujoto, who said that members of the Islamic Defenders Front was on the way to the church.
“The Sumedang Police Chief asked me to close the gate, he said that FPI was approaching our church,” said Priest Bernhard.
Priest Bernhard obeyed the suggetion, but mobs were crowding around the church shortly after he lock the entrance gate of the church.
Instead of securing the church, Sujoto opened the gate and let the mobs come into the church. They forcely stopped the mass and expelled the congregation to get out of the church.
What happened to Priest Bernhard was no less brutal than the violence that had experienced by the congregation. The FPI’s members, according to Priest Bernhard, dragged him to an empty room in the church and forced him to sign a letter, as a prove that he agreed to close the church.
“The letter said that I voluntarily agree to close the church. How come? It was undoubtable that they forced me to sign the letter. That is the reason why I refuse what they asked me to do,” said Priest Bernhard.
Priest Bernhard finally signed the letter three days later, when FPI, Jatinangor sub-district’s head and military command persistently forced him to sign the letter.
Members of Pantekosta Church are sharing difficulties to get worship house with more than 300,000 Christians in Bandung District. Until today, Bandung District has not issued a permit to build a single church, even though some of Christian leaders have given all requirements that were asked by the local government.
“It has not been a legitimated church at Bandung District since the day Indonesia proclaimed its independence, until today,” said the Head of Christian Advisory Division at the West Java’s Ministry of Religion.
Nainggolan explained that most of Christians in this disctrict are experiencing violation against the right of religion, because they cannot have a worship house.
“The act of violence against the right of religion does not only happened to congregation of the Pantekosta Church at Jatinangor, or Christians who live at Rancaekek (on 12 December 2011, members of hardline groups in Bandung attack seven worship houses that belong to the Batak Huria Christian Church at Rancaekek). It also happens to Christians who live at other areas in this district, including Soreang and Baleendah,” Nainggolan added.
Nainggolan has recommended the district administration to requires housing developers to build worship houses for all of religious congregations at the area that is planned to be built. It will accommodate the needs to worship for congregation of every religion. “But the administration does not hear my recommendation,” Nainggolan explained sadly.
Foto: VHRmedia / Bambang Prasethyo