Stories about protests against Christian churches being built and opened have become depressingly common in Muslim-majority Indonesia, but members of the country’s other minority religions must also sometimes face intolerance when they attempt to build houses of worship (including Muslims, in areas of the country where they’re in the minority).
In the Bekasi regency of West Java, just outside of Jakarta, plans to build a Hindu temple in one neighborhood have recently been met with protests by local residents — despite the fact that the temple had already met all of the legal requirements for its construction.
News of the protest spread on social media in large part via a video, posted yesterday by a Facebook user named Dr. Arya Wedakarna, that shows residents of Sukahurip village, located in Bekasi’s Sukatani district, gathering to denounce the building of a Hindu temple in their neighborhood.
A man narrating over the video says that the ulema (Islamic scholars) and other elements of the community strongly rejected the building of the temple.
In his caption, Dr. Arta asks that Hindus in Bekasi be patient and not be provoked by the protests as the problem was being resolved via legal means with government officials.
Photos of some of the banners put up around the temple’s construction site have also gone viral, including one saying, “Be careful! If you insist on building the temple, we are ready to carry out jihad as you are the one who started this.”
Police in Bekasi have attempted to downplay the protest against the temple’s construction, with Bekasi Metro Police Chief Candra Sukma Kumara saying that locals only wanted the appropriate regulations to be followed.
“There is no rejection, they only ask that the establishment of places of worship be done according to the procedure,” Candra said as quoted by Tempo. The police chief went on to say that no procedures had in fact been violated in terms of the temple’s construction and permit and said that the matter came down to inadequate communication with the local community.
Candra said that a meeting between the local community, religious leaders and government officials had been carried out and the situation was peaceful.
However, that description of events would seem to clash with other reports indicating that protests were not simply about whether proper procedure was followed but specifically to demand that the temple not be built. Indeed, another one of the banners hung near the temple’s site said: “We, the scholars and the people of Sukahurip Village and Banjarsari Village, strongly reject the construction of a temple in Sukahurip Village.”
The temple was being built by the children of a man from Bali named Uko who had long lived in the village. His children wanted to build the temple after Uko passed away as a way to help the Hindu community in Bekasi regency, whose members currently have to make a long trip to a temple in Bekasi City to carry out their worship practices.
The opening of houses of worship fall under the jurisdiction of local Religious Harmony Forums (FKUB), interfaith councils that are meant to represent the interests of each area’s religious communities. Although the FKUB system has often been criticized for actually allowing for intolerance against religious minorities, in this case FKUB Bekasi officials say the temple had already met the requirements for construction — specifically they had gathered 90 signatures of Hindus who said they would use the house of worship and 60 signatures from local residents who agreed to its construction.
Despite that, it appears the temple’s fate is still in jeopardy. After the meeting between members of the community, religious figures and government officials yesterday, authorities said they would “verify” whether the temple had indeed met the administrative requirements for its construction permit.
Below is one response to the protest that has gone viral on Facebook, posted yesterday by user Hendra Hendarin, that contrasts the image of the banner warning of jihad if the construction of the temple in Bekasi moves forward with an image of a Hindu pecalang (a type of public order officer) in Bali guarding Muslims as they pray at a mosque.