The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Cilegon publicly reject the establishment of a Christian Church in Cilegon City, Banten Province

On 7 September 2022, a group calling itself the Committee for the Rescue of Local Wisdom in Cilegon City held a demonstration against the construction of the Maranatha Batak Protestant Huria Christian Church (HKBP) in the Cikuasa neighbourhood, Geram Village, Grogol District, Cilegon City, Banten Province. They used the Decree of the Head of Serang II No. 189/Huk/SK/1975, dated 20 March 1975, as a juridical document to reject the establishment of a church. This decree reportedly regulates the establishment of houses of worship other than mosques in Serang Regency, now Cilegon City.

The Cilegon City Local Wisdom Rescue Committee started the demonstration against the establishment of the HKBP Maranatha church at the Cilegon DPRD Building and marched to the Mayor’s office. There they met the Mayor of Cilegon Helldy Agustian and his deputy, Sanuji Pentamarta. The demonstrators were carrying a two-meter-long white cloth and urged the Mayor and his deputy to sign the fabric to support the rejection of the church’s construction. In a video circulating, the mayor and his deputy can be seen following the request and signing the white fabric.

Cilegon City is an area with a relatively high level of intolerance. In the Tolerant City Index research published by the Setara Institute, Cilegon has been in the rankings in 2015, 2017, 2017, 2020 and 2021. The research considered government policies and actions, city and social regulations, and religious demographic. However, the intolerance issue has become more concerning with the mayor and deputy mayor, as public officials, supporting the HKBP Maranatha Church’s rejection in Cilegon City.

On 8 September 2022, the Mayor of Cilegon declared that he followed the wishes of the community, consisting of ulama, community leaders, youth leaders, and community organisations. This statement further emphasises the act of discrimination against minorities in Cilegon City, which is contrary to the constitution. 

The mayor also claimed that the Cilegon City government had never received an application for constructing a house of worship. However, according to the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) records, the Cilegon City government has rejected four applications for a permit for the HKBP Maranatha Church since 2006 and five applications for a license from the Indonesian Baptist Church in Cilegon since 1995. On the other hand, the Committee for the Construction of the HKBP Maranatha House of Worship claims to have received the validation from 112 congregations from a total of 3,903 people or 856 families spread across 8 Districts of Cilegon City. The Committee for the Construction of the HKBP Maranatha House of Worship has the support of 70 residents in the Gerem Village. It submitted a request for domicile validation on 21 April 2022 to the Gerem Village Head, Rahmadi. However, the Gerem Village Head was not willing to validate the endorsement of 70 residents for unclear reasons.

The Cilegon City Local Wisdom Committee also accused the HKBP Maranatha House of Worship Construction Committee of attempting to establish a church illegally by for example counterfeiting support in the form of signatures from the Cikuasa Community, Gerem Village, Grogol District, and Cilegon City.

The establishment of houses of worship is part of the external freedom (externum forum) religion, which allows the state to impose restrictions. However, Article 18 paragraph (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Syracusa Principles has set strict prerequisites, namely, (a) based on a precise rule of law (prescribed by law), (b) the necessary reasons (necessary), (c) to maintain public order, (d) public health and morals, and (e) fundamental rights and freedoms of others. In the Indonesian constitution, namely Article 28J paragraph (2) of the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia and Law no. 39 of 1999 concerning Human Rights, it has also been emphasised that the limitation of human rights in Indonesia must go through legislation at the level of the law, not in other legal products.

Currently in Indonesia, restrictions on the establishment of places of worship are regulated through the Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religion and the Minister of Home Affairs (PBM) No. 9 and 8 of 2006 concerning Guidelines for the Implementation of Duties of Regional Heads/Deputy Regional Heads in Maintaining Religious Harmony, Empowering Religious Harmony Forums, and Establishing Houses of Worship (PBM 2006). In a sense, the form of setting restrictions through this PBM is contrary to the constitution. Substantially this decree is also discriminatory against minorities.

Article 13, paragraph (1) of the 2006 PBM stipulates that the establishment of houses of worship is based on the real and genuine needs based on the population for the services of the religious community concerned in the urban village area. In its study, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) said that the context of threats and discrimination occurred because, from the beginning, the objective was restrictive by providing criteria and formulations that were multi-interpreted and too broad regarding real and genuine needs. This substance leads to restrictions that will have implications for difficulties, especially in the establishment of houses of worship for minority groups. If the need for religious services in the urban village area is not met, then according to Article 13 paragraph (3) of the PBM, the consideration of the composition of the population is to use the boundaries of the sub-district or district/city or province. According to Komnas HAM, this article seems to relax the fulfilment of requirements, but substantially, this policy implies that it continues to lead to restrictions. Ultimately, the calculation of the need for houses of worship is based on quantity. The establishment of places of worship still must meet 6 (six) requirements:

  • Administrative requirements include land rights status, building ownership status and building permits.
  • Technical requirements include building layout requirements and building reliability requirements.
  • Identity cards exist for users of houses of worship of at least 90 people, which local officials legalise under the level of regional boundaries.
  • The local community support, at least 60 people who are legalised by the Urban village/village head.
  • A written recommendation from the head of the district/city religious department office.
  • Written recommendation from district/city FKUB.

In the case of the rejection of Cilegon, for example, the Religious Freedom Forum (FKUB) signed the support for the rejection of the establishment of a minority house of worship. Also, the local community support was allegedly not recognised.

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Mayor’s office (-6.0191025, 106.0563039)
administrative region: Indonesia, Banten Province, Cilegon City, Gerogol District, Gerem Village
total number of victims: dozens
period of incident: 07.09.2022
perpetrator: government
perpetrator details: Committee for the Rescue of Local Wisdom, Mayor of Cilegon, Deputy Mayor of Cilegon
Issues: freedom of religion and belief, minority issues
Further HRM News:

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
dozensunknownunknownunknownChristians freedom of religion