Growth of Indonesian Christian Population Causes Backlash
Around the world we see three main types of persecution. Government/Communist (China, Vietnam), religious (Middle East), and cultural (Sri, Lanka, India). Then you can have a mix of the three as in Indonesia where you have religious oppression (Muslim) and cultural threat.
A feeling of cultural threat is a major cause of persecution around the world. This happens when there is dramatic growth of minority Christian populations. As this population grows, the majority religion or culture feels threatened and reacts to the growth as a threat to their territory.
In India, you will often hear radical Hindus say things like “India is Hindu”and “mother India must be protected”. They conjure up all kinds of vile images to frame the changing demographics. They will give the impression that their virginal (in this case Hindu) culture is being molested by foreign villains and that the motherland (virgin) must be protected. Another favorite word picture is to portray the spread of Christianity as an infestation or growth of a virus attacking the healthy flesh (dominant culture).
We have known for years that a feeling of cultural threat was a major cause of persecution in Indonesia. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and the persecution at first blush seems to be only a matter of radical Islamist attacks on the infidels.
Part of the story of persecution there though, is the incredible growth of Christianity.
It is reported to us that the government consistenly under-reports the size of the Christian population. You can quibble about the current size or rate of growth of the minority Christian population but the bottom line is the Christian popluation’s growth is dramatic. This growth is intimidating to the majority Muslim population and they want it stopped. Here is in an interesting quip from a military website Strategypage (July 28th, 2005).
More moderate Moslem leaders, while helping the government by preaching against the Islamic radicals, also want government help to stem the growth of Christianity. Missionaries, both Indonesian and foreign, have been successful in converting an increasing number of Moslem Indonesians.
The Islamic clergy want the government to intervene. By law, only five religions are allowed in Indonesia , and the government has a tradition of getting involved in religious affairs. While 85 percent of Indonesians are Moslem, most of the remainder are Christian. On some islands, the population is half, or more, Christian.
On those islands, many Moslems see Christianity as a more “modern” religion. Christian clergy and missionaries are generally better educated than their Moslem counterparts, and the Christians tend to be more successful economically as well.