Nothing to see here: Police say no conservative group pressure behind covering up of Mother Mary statue

A statue of the Mother Mary being covered up with tarp on March 22, 2023. Photo: Video screengrab
A statue of the Mother Mary being covered up with tarp on March 22, 2023. Photo: Video screengrab

Police in Indonesia say there is no sinister conspiracy behind the covering up of a Mother Mary statue with tarp in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta.

The statue, which measures six meters in height, was erected recently at Sasana Adhi Rasa House of Worship, which was built in December 2022. According to reports, members of a mass organization (locally known as ormas) recently paid a visit to the Catholic house of worship to demand that the statue be obscured so as not to disturb Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, especially as there is a mosque nearby.

On Wednesday afternoon, members of the ormas, as well as officers from a nearby precinct, reportedly covered the statue with blue tarp. This year’s Ramadan began on Wednesday evening.

As the news triggered outrage in the country, local police confirmed that although members of the ormas did pay the house of worship a visit, they did not pressure anyone to cover up the statue.

“The initiative to cover up the Mother Mary statue was purely from the owner of the house of worship. The younger brother of the owner was the one who covered up the statue,” Kulon Progo Police Chief Muharomah Fajarini said during a press conference yesterday.

Of course, that doesn’t adequately explain the ormas’ involvement in the first place. That said, the younger brother corroborated the police’s claim, saying that the statue had to be covered up as they sort out administrative requirements for the house of worship.

Separately, the Ministry of Religious Affairs said the newly-built Sasana Adhi Rasa has not yet obtained a permit to operate as a house of worship.

In Indonesia, churches are prone to closure over supposed permit issues, leaving their congregations without places to worship. Many churches have been operating without the necessary permits or have been unable to obtain them due to bureaucratic delays or opposition from local authorities and conservative groups.


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