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Indonesian Mayor Seeks to Ban Christian Churches on Streets With Islamic Names

"a small extremist fringe has become more vocal"

JAKARTA, Indonesia (The Blaze/AP) -- Incidents of violence and discrimination against Christians in the Islamic nation of Indonesia have been increasing in recent years. In the latest example of anti-Christian sentiment, a mayor is trying to ban Christian churches on streets with Islamic names.

This attempt to block construction of a new parish in the world's largest Muslim-majority country raises major human and civil rights concerns. While the proposal, itself, may not seem dangerous on the surface, critics say that however arbitrary it is, it serves as yet another example of growing religious intolerance in the nation.

Back in September 2010, Al-Jazeera reported on the troubles facing Christians in the region:

Indonesia, a secular nation of 240 million, has a long history of religious tolerance, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal - and violent - in recent years. This, of course, is driving the religious issues that are beginning to boil in the Southeast Asian nation.

The Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church was supposed to open in the city of Bogor in 2008, but residents protested, claiming its permit was illegal. Then, the battle was taken to the courts.

Though the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the church in December, Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to comply. He argued he was pushing for a decree to make it illegal to open churches on streets with Islamic names.

Critics said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - who relies heavily on Islamic parties in parliament - has remained silent as minorities have been attacked by hard-liners or seen their houses of worship torched or boarded up. Christians, who make up 10 percent of the population, also say it can take years to get permits to build new churches.

The Taman Yasmin worshippers have been holding weekly services in front of their sealed off building for nearly three years, said Bona Singalingging, the church spokesman. He called the mayor's latest proposal part of a "dangerous" trend.

Back in June, The Blaze covered the violent Indonesian mob that destroyed two churches and attacked a Christian school. The individuals behind these actions were seeking a stricter prison sentence for a man who had handed out leaflets calling Islam a violent religion. The Blaze's Buck Sexton reported that over a thousand Muslims rioted to express their outrage that the court failed to sentence the offending Christian, Antonius Banwengan, to death.

The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a human rights group, says attacks on religious freedom by hard-liners more than tripled in the last two years.

In 2010, there were 64 incidents, ranging from physical abuse to preventing groups from performing prayers and burning houses of worship, up from 18 in 2009 and 17 in 2008.

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