August 23, 2011

Church ban reflects Indonesia’s growing religious intolerance

by Jan Harris

A proposal to ban Christian churches on streets with Islamic names is the latest indication that Muslim-dominated Indonesia’s intolerance of Christians is growing.

Diani Budiarto, the mayor of Bogor, a city on the island of Java, proposed the controversial move as part of his efforts to block the construction of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church.

The church failed to open in 2008 as planned, after residents claimed its permit was illegal.

Even though permission for the church to open was granted by the Supreme Court in December, the Mayor is still trying to stop the church opening.

Indonesia’President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been criticised for failing to stop the growth of religious intolerance in the country.

Although Indonesia is secular, Islam is the dominant religion and extremist groups have increased their attacks on minorities in recent years, including burning houses of worship and physically attacking worshippers.

According to human rights group, the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, attacks on religiously motivated attacks have grown from 17 incidents in 2008 to 64 in 2010.

Earlier this month, the leniency of an Indonesian court towards those responsible for murdering members of a minority Muslim group was condemned by human rights groups and the US State Department.

Twelve men were sentenced to a maximum of six months in prison for their parts in a violent attack on 20 members of the Ahmadiyah sect in Cikeusik, western Java, in February.

It is believed that more that 1,000 militants were involved in the attack in which three people were killed and several more were injured.

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