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Indonesia : from west to east — Christians are under pressure

ICC Note

Radical Muslims are increasing their attacks against Indonesia ’s Christians.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Friday, December 7, 2007 Indonesia (ANS) — Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Whilst Indonesian Muslims have traditionally been nominal, cultural, progressive Muslims, Islamic fundamentalism is growing, sponsored over recent decades by foreign states and pan-Islamic organisations. From west to east, Christians are coming under increased pressure.

ACEH: After a long separatist war for independence, Islamic and nationalist separatist guerrillas in the Sumatran province of Aceh won autonomy for Aceh along with the right to implement Sharia law, although most Acehnese did not want it. Now tourism officials in Aceh are proposing to open up Aceh for Sharia tourism. Tourism official Cipta Hunai has announced: ‘We invite international tourists to visit Aceh to observe how an Islamic community lives and how the Islamic code of Sharia is applied.’ Hunai maintains that Sharia produces a peaceful and secure community and that tourists will not be put off by the public canings which he explains are ‘carried out to correct Muslims who have made mistakes’.

Life is especially hard for Christians. Churches have been razed and pastors attacked. Muslim fundamentalists are working hard to advance their Islamist agenda and frustrate struggling modernist forces.

JAVA: In July 2005 Indonesia’s leading clerics complained that Christianity was making ‘worrying inroads’ and that Christian preachers were converting Muslims at ‘an alarming rate’, while the ‘phenomenon’ of church construction was ‘most disturbing’. In West Java , Muslim fundamentalists have been combating this by escalating and intensifying their intimidation and persecution of pastors, evangelists and churches. Groups aligned to the Anti-Apostasy Alliance have forced numerous churches to close. Compass Direct reports that on 21 November militants belonging to the Islamic Defender Forces (FPI) attacked and wreaked havoc at the Tangerang home of the Reverend Bedali Hulu, pastor of Jakarta Christian Baptist Church . Local authorities dealt with the criminal violence by asking Rev Hulu to leave the region for a while.

On Friday 23 November Muslim protesters shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (god is great) marched from the Al Maulana mosque to the registered 4000-member Damai Kristus (Christ’s Peace) Catholic Church in Kampung Duri. They wanted the church closed and the Christian symbols removed. Church leaders refused. The Muslims subsequently returned with a letter from the Tambora district head requiring the church to halt its ministries.

PAPUA: Javanese transmigration into the traditionally Christian eastern regions produces religious tensions as Muslim migrants and indigenous Christians compete for land, resources and control. The situation is most severe in Papua (Irian Jaya), where the Muslim Indo-Malay transmigrants are both religiously and racially distinct from the predominantly Christian Melanesian Papuans who regard their incorporation into Indonesia in 1963 as an act of gross injustice. Though the Indonesian government keeps Papua closed, it recently granted US Democrat Congressman Eni Faleomavaega permission to visit Papua on 26 & 27 November while en route to Bali . However, the Indonesian authorities did everything in their power to ensure that the Congressman did not get to meet with or speak to any Papuans. Systematic Islamisation and slow genocide are in progress — the genocide of a Christian people betrayed by the West for the resources on and in their land.

Please Pray For-

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that God will ‘take hold of his right hand’ to subdue hostile, belligerent and anti-Christian forces and strip Islamic fundamentalists of their appeal, as well as open doors, break down barriers and cut through obstacles (Isaiah 45:1-8) for the benefit of the Church and nation and for the glory of God’s name. Pray likewise for Irwandi Yusuf, the elected, progressive governor of autonomous Aceh.

God to give Christian leaders across Indonesia — from Aceh through Sumatra and Java, through Sulawesi, Maluku and the eastern-most regions of Papua — ‘the Spirit of wisdom’ (Ephesians 1:17) in abundance in a delicate situation where God’s sheep need wise shepherds.

God to bless all Christians in Indonesia , particularly those presently experiencing intimidation and persecution, with a profound, uplifting and inspiring awareness of God’s eternal presence and unfailing love. (Romans 8:38,39)

‘In his [Jesus’] law, the islands will put their hope.’ (Isaiah 42:4 NIV)