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05/26/2020 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – In Indonesia, many of the clusters of COVID-19 cases were caused by large scale religious gathering. Muslims and Christians alike attended their regional conferences and unfortunately returned with COVID-19.

Several clusters of infections that emerged from mass events were organized by the Tablighi Jamaat group, a global Islamic missionary group, and the Indonesian Bethel Church (GBI), a Protestant Pentecostal network.

According to the Jakarta-based think-tank, The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), “Large gatherings of two religious organizations, one Muslim, one Christian, became ‘super-spreaders’ of the COVID-19 virus in Indonesia, raising concerns that the pandemic could lead to an increase in religious intolerance, heightened communal tensions or localized outbreaks of violence.”

In the latest research published on May 19, IPAC said, “In general, the clusters carried the highest risk of triggering tensions where there was a previous history of trouble and the virus became a new dimension of an old pattern.” 

In the case of Christians, in West Java province, Gov. Ridwan Kamil said that more than 200 people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 in Bandung city had attended a gathering of the Bethel Indonesia Church in Lembang. A priest and his wife died after testing positive for the virus.

Also in April, 41 students living at a Bethel Theological College dormitory in Central Jakarta tested positive as well, forcing other occupants to be quarantined.

“The Bethel cluster produced a rash of untrue anti-Christian hate speech suggesting, in one posting, that 10,000 pastors linked to GBI and another Pentecostal group were Indonesia’s ‘silent killers,’” the report said.

The accusation was of course unfounded, leading many anti-hoax websites in Indonesia to curb the flow of rumors and growing intolerance.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].