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Indonesia Worshipers Remain Shut Out of Church Despite Supreme Court Order

Political factions have joined Indonesia's radical Islamic groups in keeping the doors of a Christian church in Bogor closed to worshipers, intentionally defying orders by the Supreme Court which ruled in the church's favor.

The Golkar Party, the Democratic Factions Party, and the Prosperous Justice Party voiced their approval of Mayor Diani Budiarto's defiance Wednesday at a Bogor Legislative Council meeting.

Currently, only the Democratic Party of Struggle opposes the mayor's decision to keep the church sealed.

Mayor Budiarto has continued to ignore the Supreme Court's orders by refusing to unseal the GKI Taman Yasmin Christian church in Bogor. Indonesia's Supreme Court determined the church legal for worship in 2009.

The Bogor admnistration originally shut down the church on the grounds that it served as a major source of conflict in the town. Critics contend that the administration bowed to public pressure from radical Islamic groups to shut down the church.

GKI parishioners have repetitvely been turned away from their church. In March 2011, the Bogor Public Order Agency locked the church's doors after worshipers broke in to hold Sunday Mass.

"We were turned away and called to disperse at 6:30 a.m.," church spokesperson Bona Sigalingging told The Jakarta Post.

"Police should have arrested those who instigated the unrest instead of forcing us out. This is a challenge to the national legal system," he added.

Roughly 100 supporters gathered in front of Bogor City administration Wednesday to support the mayor's controversial decision, arguing that Muslims needed to "stop the GKI Yasmin's arrogance," according to a text message sent to The Jakarta Globe by Islamic People's Forum secretary general Muhammad Al Khaththath.

This follows a rally days before that was organized by hardline group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia. Protesters gathered in front of the Bogor City Hall to push for the continued seal on the church.

"Diani should have thought better of allowing his administration's facilities to be used in the interests of a radical group. His weak leadership is more than enough to encourage the Bogor council to launch an interpellation right," Ganjar Pranowo from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told The Jakarta Post Tuesday.

This is another example of Indonesia's weakening religious plurality. Indonesia has remained on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) "Watch List" for religious intolerance since 2002.

Human rights watchdog the United States Commission of International Freedom sent a letter to President Barack Obama in late November, requesting that he address growing religious intolerance in Indonesia

"Religious radicalism and extremist groups, who have found converts in the country, are challenging Indonesia's well-known tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism -- leading to sectarian and societal violence, terrorism, and religious freedom violations," USCIRF said in the letter to President Obama.

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