Families in Indonesia Are Turning Against Their Own For Turning to Christ
By Daniel Harris
04/26/2017 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Like many in Indonesia, Risma moved to Jakarta looking for work. She found work there as a shopkeeper and worked for several years. One Sunday, Risma felt a strong urge to go to church. This was especially unusual for Risma, since she was a Muslim and never went to church. For some reason, she went anyway that day. She told International Christian Concern (ICC) that something happened when she walked into the church. She said that she could feel God’s presence. Suddenly, she began sobbing, but in spite of the tears she felt overwhelmed with peace and joy like she had never felt before. She had no idea what this meant, but she knew something was different. She knew her life was changing.
Risma had been gone from home for years, even though her home was only a few hours away, and she began feeling like she should go back and reconnect with her mother and sister. Around this time, Risma heard that her sister had left home and no one knew where she was. So only a few weeks after becoming a Christian, Risma returned home. By the time she got home, there was still no news regarding her sister’s whereabouts, so she threw herself into the search efforts. Every contact was called and every rumor followed as they searched desperately for her. Finally, after a week, they learned that she was in a town approximately four hours away. They hopped on a bus and went straight there and found her. She had been promised work by someone, but learned that it was a lie when she got there. Risma returned home with her younger sister and her mother. Finally, after years of separation, the three were reunited.
However, things were different. Risma was a Christian now, and she was afraid that her mother and sister would find out and it would tear them apart. She tried to hide her faith, but she knew it would not be long before they would find out. First, they would notice her not doing her Muslim prayers at the scheduled times. They would also notice that she didn’t go to the mosque on Fridays. So Risma decided to tell them herself before it was too late. When Risma told her mother, she said that her mother “raged.” Her mother yelled at her, “If you insist on being a Christian, you are no longer allowed to be with your family. You are no longer allowed to stay here. You must leave this house and don’t ever think of coming back.” Just like that, Risma was forced out of the family she had just reunited with.
Risma didn’t know what to do, so she found her way back to Jakarta. Her old job couldn’t take her back and she had no house to stay in. She found some friends who are letting her stay with them, but they are Muslim and don’t know about her conversion yet. After her experience with her mom, she is afraid that if they find out, she will find herself homeless. Risma is so afraid, in fact, that she does not answer the phone when ICC staff calls her for fear that the friends will ask who she is talking to. She only responds to text messages. ICC is sending a staff member to meet with Risma to try to help her find a job and a safe place to live. Despite her fear of finding herself homeless and unemployed, she told ICC, “I will always follow Jesus no matter what happens in my life. Yes, it is really tough for me now. No family, no house, no job, but God is good.”
Risma’s story is much like the story of Nisa that was shared last week, who was sent away from her family for the same reason. These stories highlight the growing intolerance facing Christians in Indonesia, a country once renowned for its religious tolerance and characterized by moderate forms of Islam. However, Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world, and one that is coming increasingly under the influence of a wave of ultra-conservatism from the Middle East. To make matters worse, Risma is Sundanese, a people group that is considered one of the largest unreached people groups in the world. It is also one of the most dangerous people groups in which one could become a Christian. ICC supports Sundanese underground pastors who are reaching out to their community, but they need more than just support. They need prayers. They need prayer for their safety amidst the danger they face. They need prayer that people’s hearts will be opened to the Gospel. Lastly, they do need your support. ICC has a specific fund for women like Risma who are suffering, the Save Our Sisters Fund, and a specific fund for underground Sundanese pastors, the Underground Pastor Fund, that you can give to directly on ICC’s website at www.persecution.org.