Indonesian parishioners long for a church building

ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST PARISH in Tulang Kuning hamlet of Parung sub-district, in the Bogor district of Indonesia’s West Java province, still does not have a church building, even though it was created in 2000. The parish, which has more than 3,000 Catholics, submitted permit requirements to the local administration in 2009 and 2011, but there were no responses. Such a situation, caused by a 2006 governmental decree on places of worship, has forced the parish to hold Sunday Masses and all church activities in a semi-permanent tent built on its land. Worse, the parish faced protests from intolerant groups at least three times as a result of the new law, which lays out onerous requirements. For example, Church officials must provide a list of the names and signatures of 90 worshippers and get signed support from at least 60 local residents and approval by the village head. F.X. Rahyono, a parishioner, told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about his longing for a permanent church building.

“I moved to Parung sub-district, Bogor district, in the 1990s. Sunday Masses were still held in the yard of Lebak Wangi Restaurant owned by a Catholic laywoman at that time. Then in 2005, I was chosen as a leader of the Catholic neighborhood community in my housing complex.

“In 2008, we agreed to move to the parish’s land in Tulang Kuning hamlet to hold Easter celebrations. There was still nothing there but a sexton’s residence, so we rented a huge tent and then built it on the parish’s land for the Easter celebrations. I was still serving as a deputy chairman of the parish’s pastoral board at that time.

“Unexpectedly, there was a strong rejection from a certain intolerant Muslim group. They protested against the Easter celebrations held on the parish’s land. I was shocked as I did not expect such thing to happen. Maybe it was because of the huge tent that we erected there. The huge tent surprised the protesters as there was nothing there before on the parish’s land. Well, I must admit that we did not communicate with them before we held the Easter celebrations.

St. John the Baptist’s temporary quarters

“In 2009, when I was still serving on the parish’s pastoral board, we submitted permit requirements to the local administration. However, the situation during that time was still not conducive following the protest.

“We faced protests at least three times, respectively in 2008, 2010, and 2012. The main issue was the same, which was about a building permit for our church building. What I heard is that such an obstacle is common in West Java province.

“Nevertheless, we did not argue with the protesters, who were mostly outsiders. This is what our Catholic faith taught us. Instead, we prayed for them. We tried to befriend them following the protests. Even young parishioners embraced them and once jointly organized a soccer game. And I have never heard any protest again since the last one in 2012. 

“We do not want to leave a scar. That is why we maintain our good relations with them. In the meantime, we are preparing again all requirements needed to obtain a permit for our church building.

“Of course, I long for a church building. I am only human. But I just want to enjoy this moment of friendship. The most important thing is that I still can attend Sunday Masses even in the semi-permanent tent. To me, Communion is more important than a church building, at least for now.

“This is my reflection. What I have gone through is my journey of faith. I have to walk to Golgotha until there is ‘a resurrection.’”

Roselina Karel