Jakarta (ANTARA) - Regional leaders must accommodate the interest of religious communities by facilitating the establishment of places of worship if all prerequisites have been satisfied, Religious Affairs Ministry's Centre for Religious Harmony (PKUB) Head Wawan Djunaedi stated.

Djunaedi remarked that regional leaders must abide by Joint Regulation of Religious Affairs and Home Affairs Ministers No. 8 and No. 9 of 2006.

"The joint ministerial regulation dictates that establishment of a place of worship should satisfy administrative and technical building construction requisites,” Djunaedi noted in the written statement received here, Friday.

In response to the recent involvement of Banten Province’s Cilegon Mayor Helldy Agustian in the signing of a declaration to reject the construction of a church in the city, the ministry's official said that regional leaders must respect the religious rights and rights of worship of residents.

According to Agustian, the joint ministerial regulation dictated that advocates for a new place of worship must collect 90 verified identity cards of residents, who will use the worship place; proof of endorsement from at least 60 residents and verified by the village head; and written recommendations from the local religious affairs ministry's office and the Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB).

He remarked that regional authorities must ensure the location of the place of worship's construction site if advocates successfully collected 90 verifiable identity cards yet are stuck in the process of obtaining endorsements from the local community.

The ministry also encouraged regional leaders to set up a joint desk involving relevant stakeholders, including the ministry's official, the FKUB, religious and local figures, the regional leadership forum, and public organizations, as a medium to resolve issues on religious harmony.

He pointed out that the Cilegon authority must not heed outdated regional head decisions, including two dated back to 1975, to justify their rejection of the establishment of non-Muslim places of worship in the city.

The regulations were made while Cilegon's religious demographic was 99-percent Muslims, he noted, adding that according to the Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, the combined percentage of non-Muslim residents of various religious denominations in the city reached 12.82 percent in 2010.

"Referring to the current number of Christians (in the city), the need to establish a place of worship for them is now legitimate," Djunaedi stated.

He added that the ministry's official met the Cilegon mayor last April and urged the local authority to observe the joint ministerial regulation issued in 2006.

"We also encouraged the local FKUB, as the institution promoting religious harmony, and all residents to abide by the prevailing laws," he remarked.

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Translator: Asep Firmansyah, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Sri Haryati
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