Calls to cut red tape for places of worship
While praising the Jakarta administration’s decision to allow religious activities at the National Monument (Monas) park compound, a commitment to cut bureaucratic red tape for religious communities planning to build places of worship is much more needed by minority religions.
According to the 2006 joint ministerial decree between the Home Ministry and the Religious Affairs Ministry, the establishment of houses of worship requires at least 90 signatures from congregation members and 60 signatures of people living in the neighborhood of the planned house of worship. This requirement alone has made it harder for minority religions to establish their own places of worship.
“It’s practically easier to set up a massage parlor than to build a house of worship,” Rusli, of the Indonesian Buddhist Council Organization [Walubi], said, adding that there were many Buddhist temples or Viharas operating illegally, because the management were overwhelmed by the complicated requirements.
According to Gubernatorial Decree No. 83/2012, which serves as a derivative of the ministerial decree, in addition to having 90 congregation members and supported by 60 people in the neighborhood, the religious community must obtain a principal permit from the governor. The permit would allow the religious community to acquire a building construction permit (IMB) so that they can start construction legally.
“My bureau will only submit the proposal to the governor if they are able to get a recommendation from mayors of the municipality where the house of worship is located, a recommendation from the Jakarta branch of the Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) and a recommendation from the regional office of Religious Affairs Ministry,” the head of Jakarta’s Mental and Spiritual Education Bureau, Aceng Zaini, said.
The bureau is responsible for processing proposals to issue permits for places of worship.
According to 2015 data from the bureau, there are 245 registered Vihara, serving almost 380,000 Buddhists in the city.
The bureau has also registered 45 Catholic churches serving 402,000 people and 27 Hindu temples for 19,000 people.
Aceng said there were some 10,000 registered places of worship in the capital, around 8,700 of which were mosques and mushola (small mosques). “But those are only the ones on our databases, there are definitely more [...] because some of them haven’t applied for permits.”
He said the process was simple and would only take three to four weeks to process if they met all the requirements. The bureau has only issued 13 permits this year, Aceng said, six of which were for mosques and seven for churches.
The secretary of Jakarta chapter of FKUB, Taufiq Rahman Azhar, said a recommendation from his agency was needed to make sure that the construction of a place of worship would not cause conflict in a community.
This year, Jakarta’s FKUB has issued 12 recommendations, mostly for mosques and churches.
Taufiq said religious communities must talk to the neighborhood, the community units, district and sub-district offices and obtain stamped signatures from all posts, including 60 supporters in the neighborhood. “We also suggest that the 60 are made up of people from different religions, so we can know that there would not be a conflict in the future.”
Setara Institute deputy director Bonar Tigor Naipospos said the requirements had raised the ire of minority religions for being too bureaucratic. “The government should uphold the freedom to gather, unite and express religious belief according to the constitution. It should not be restricted by others,” he said.
The same regulation had forced then governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to close a Protestant Church in 2015 because of lack of supports although it had been established for 30 years.