According to UCA News reporting on 8 June 2023, the government plans to alter a 17-year-old decree which has been a major barrier to the construction or renovation of churches. Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas announced on 5 June that the Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 will be revised, doing away with the need for a recommendation from the Muslim-dominated Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB).
World Watch Research (WWR) analyst Thomas Muller comments: “This change is very positive news for the Christian community. WWR reported on 5 May 2023 that a major criticism of the FKUB was that its decisions were always focused on ‘peace and harmony’ and left religious minorities out in the cold. Since 2006, the government has installed local Forums for Religious Harmony throughout the country and in many cases they have successfully helped resolve disputes. However, their purpose is to maintain religious harmony, not to help the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion prevail. It therefore frequently happens that harmony for a majority of people is found by compromising the rights of a minority.”
Thomas Muller warns against celebrating too soon: “Despite the dropping of the FKUB recommendation, there will still be plenty of other requirements left in place before a building permit can be obtained, so Christians will still have difficulties to face. It remains to be seen if this official decision to alter a 17-year-old decree will affect voting in the 2024 presidential elections. In any case, the decision has clearly not been welcomed by the Muslim community: According to the UCA News report, the deputy chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council indicated opposition to the government’s plan and warned it could lead to violence.”