(The right to worship) is protected by the Constitution, and everyone must understand this issue.
Jakarta (ANTARA) - The 1945 constitutional mandate on the freedom of worship for all people takes precedence over any instructions issued by a district or mayor regarding the development of places of worship, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has highlighted.

He emphasized that as the supreme law, the Constitution must not be disregarded for mere verbal consensus on restricting the construction of places of worship.

"The Constitution must not be disregarded for a mere consensus. If, for instance, there is a meeting consensus or FKUB (Regional Religious Harmony Forum) resolution restricting the development of places of worship, I warn you, the Constitution clearly protects the rights," he said at the “2023 Regional Heads and Regional Leadership Forum National Coordination Meeting” in Bogor, West Java, on Tuesday.

Christians, Catholics, Hindus, and other religious minorities have equal religious rights and worship rights, he added.

Article 29 Paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution elucidates the right to worship for residents of all religious denominations according to their faith, he pointed out.

“(The right to worship) is protected by the Constitution, and everyone must understand this issue. Our Constitution granted freedom of religion and worship regardless if there are only one, two, or three (individuals belonging to a religious minority) in cities or districts. We must be mindful of this," Widodo said.

He also expressed concern over reports of incidents where religious minorities in some cities were forced to worship in other regions because they did not have a place of worship in their home city.

"Because I see this still occurs (in some regions). Sometimes, I ponder: ‘Is it that difficult for them to worship their God?’ We are saddened by this incident," the President remarked.

The right to worship for religious minorities remains a contentious issue in some regions, and in some cases, regional heads have bowed to public pressure to reject the development of a place of worship in the name of collective harmony.

Last Christmas, the head of Banten's Lebak district, Ita Octavia Jayabaya, asked Christians in Maja sub-district to join Christmas Mass in a neighboring sub-district as there was no church in Maja. The local authority earlier refused to issue a permit to the Christians to use a hall in the region for Christmas Mass due to public pressure.

Meanwhile, in the same province last September, Cilegon Mayor Helldy Agustian was involved in the signing of a declaration to reject the construction of a church in the city. He justified his involvement by stating that the church did not satisfy the prerequisites needed for its development.

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Translator: Desca Lidya N, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Azis Kurmala
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