In Indonesia, Streets With Islamic Names Are No Place for Churches

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Adek Berry / AFP / Getty Images

Indonesian Christians walk towards a Cathedral for a mass prayer on Good Friday in Jakarta on April 22, 2011

After a two-year battle, Christians in Bogor, Indonesia, still cannot open the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church. Why? Their mayor has refused to allow churches on streets with Islamic names.

Even the Supreme Court finally favored the church’s position last December. But Mayor Diani Budiarto has defied the order, locked and sealed the church, and is even seeking a decree to make all church-building on these streets impossible.

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Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and only 10% of its population is Christian. According to the Associated Press, the country’s religious intolerance may be growing—there were 64 violent attacks on religious freedom in 2010, while there were only 18 in 2009 and 17 in 2008. These incidents included church burnings and church-member physical abuse.

As the standoff continues, worshippers are meeting 500 meters outside their church. One report says that hard-line Islamic groups are known to throw shoes and water bottles at church members, to interrupt sermons with chants of “Infidels!” and “Leave Now!” and to even dump feces piles on the land.

The Home Affairs ministry may summon the controversial mayor in the coming days to discuss mediation. Diani has said he has offered other locations options, but church officials insist they want to return to their building. One key person suggests signs of hope: a local cleric Muhammad Mustofa, whose father is the street’s namesake, has stated that he has no objection to the church’s location.

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Elizabeth Dias is a reporter for TIME. Find her on Twitter at @elizabethjdias. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME

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