Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Indonesia: The Growing Persecution Against Christians

Indonesia is the largest (by population) Muslim-majority country in the world. Indonesia is very diverse geographically, made up of over 17,000 islands, and ethnically, with 300 different ethnic groups and over 700 languages. About 87% of the country's 262 million inhabitants are Muslim. Many of these are only marginally so, with a large percentage mixing Islam with traditional folk religions and even Hinduism. Many others have a very secular lifestyle and view of the world, despite claiming Islam as their faith. 

Unfortunately, in recent decades, more extremist Muslim groups have grown both in numbers and in political & social power. Religious courts, practicing Sharia Law, have precedence over civil courts in matters between Muslims regrading marriage, divorce, and other family issues. In the province of Aceh. Sharia Law is now practiced officially and has jurisdiction in all civil and legal matters, including over non-Muslims.  According to journalist Mohshin Habib "Sharia law is spreading throughout all of the provinces of Indonesia; citizens are enacting their own variations of Islamic laws, and applying then to non-Muslims as well."

There is also a significant Christian minority, making up approximately 9.9% of Indonesia's population. In fact, Operation World states that Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Indonesia. These trends are creating increasing friction and conflict between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia. Mohshin Habib sums up the situation: "Indonesia, once a country of diversity, is now becoming a place for one-way Islam.

International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights organization, reports on the latest incident of Muslim intolerance for Christianity in Indonesia: "On April 6, more than 11 wooden crosses were pulled out, damaged and burnt at the Bethesda Christian cemetery in Mrican, Yogyakarta."
In recent months, religious intolerance in Yogyakarta, a de facto Islamic sultanate on the island of Java, has risen sharply. One example: In December 2018, more than 19 Christian tombs were vandalized and  crosses desecrated in Purbayan and Magelang.

In another example, just last week, a Catholic painter named Slamet Jumiarto was kicked out from his just-moved-in community with his family (all Catholic) for being “non-Muslim.”

These are just a few recent examples of Muslim intolerance of Christians in a country often widely praised by Western politicians and news media as a great example of a moderate Muslim democracy. 

Sources: 1) Press release from International Christian Concern, dated 4/9/2019; 2) Press release from International Christian Concern, dated 04/04/2019; 3) Article: Sharia Law Swallowing Indonesia, by Mohshin Habib, published on the Gatestone Institute website;  4) Information from the Indonesia entry of Pray for the World, a resource from Operation World; 5) Demographic information from the Indonesia entry of Wikipedia.

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