The Indonesian Evangelist Who Once Set Fire to the Church: Part 1

By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent

12/10/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Nurmahdi Musa, now endearingly known as Evangelist Timothy, has a tone so soft and cordial and is always inserting encouraging Bible verses in our conversation. Who would have thought that he was a hater of Christianity who once led a Jihadi force in burning a church in Aceh?

The born again evangelist was born into a family that strictly follows Islam. His grandfather, Ustad Abu Bakar Suid, is a famous Ulama (Islamic religious scholar) in Aceh. He owned the largest Islamic boarding school in the Meulaboh area, Pondok Pesantren Nurul Huda Babussalam. His grandfather was known as the head and founder of a group called the White Robe. This group fights for the enforcement of Islamic law in Tanah Rencong, another name for Aceh Darussalam, a special administrative region of Indonesia. This group’s distinctive feature is donning of a white robe with a sword tucked at its waist, which is known as the sword of the sugarcane leaf, since the blade resembles a sugarcane leaf. This group is highly respected by both the police and the army.

Nurmahdi, his nickname in his Jihadi group, was directly under his grandfather’s guidance. His grandfather was already preparing him to become his successor. He gave his life completely to devote himself to carrying out Sharia law and spreading Islam. Since his teenage years, Nurmahdi had been involved in every movement to persecute people of other religions other than Islam who were in his neighborhood. In fact, he was once part of an anti-Christian group, led by a man who has now become a well-known pastor in Indonesia, Pastor Yusuf Rony.

Nurmahdi’s grandfather assigned him to be the main leader in charge of the Meulaboh area of West Aceh. As the main leader in his Jihadi group, he had the right to demand that his group move to their target area. In 1995, Nurmahdi led his group to burn down the GKPPD church (Pak Pak Dairi Christian Church) in the Rimo area, Aceh Singkil Regency.

Due to his hatred of Christianity, he became interested in investigating the Quran. He tried to find verses in the Quran which reject the Christian understanding of a deified Jesus, who is commonly referred to as Prophet Isa Almasih as the son of Maryam in the Quran. He wondered why Christians call and worship Jesus as the Lord. Isn’t Jesus or Isa only a prophet?

In the process, Nurmahdi found verses that speak about Isa, the son of Maryam, such as: “When you die, you will be lifted to heaven.” In another verse, it says, “When you die, you will be taken to the throne of Allah.” Yet another says, “When you die, the Lord will raise you up and raise you to his side.” These verses he found in the Quran bother him deeply. A question arose in his mind: Throne, by your side, lifting you to a high place, what do all these mean?

He dug deeper into the Quran to find answers. However, he concluded that the Quran does not explain these verses.

His grandfather could not provide a satisfactory answer either. His grandfather handed him a book, which Muslims know as the Yellow Book for its yellow cover. This book contains the explanation of the Quran’s verses and their applications. Instead of finding the answers, Nurmahdi found a statement that made him uneasy. In one part of the book, he found a reference to a verse in the Quran that says, “O Muhammad, if you don’t understand something you don’t know, then ask the people of the Nasarah.”

Nurmahdi thought, Allah commanded the Prophet Muhammad that if he did not understand something, he should ask the Nasarah. This means that when Muslims do not understand something, they should also ask the Nasarah. The Nasarah means the Christians.

Nurmahdi knew there was a Christian in his neighborhood who often held Christian worship meetings at his home. He went to the neighbor’s house, who also happened to be a police officer. When he arrived, he did not find any residents there. All he saw was a gun on the table, an infant on a swing, and a thick book with a dark blue cover on the desk. The occupants of the house had already fled seeing Nurmahdi, who came in a characteristic white robe with a sword tucked in his waist.

Because the child in the swing was already crying, Nurmahdi picked the baby up. The thick book with a dark blue cover caught his attention and made him walk towards the book. There is the word “Bible” writing on the cover. With the book in his hand, he said to himself, “Maybe this is a Christian holy book.”

Nurmahdi left a note on the table, in which he wrote, “I have no evil intentions to come here, I just want to discuss. I borrow the book with the word Bible on it, and I will return it when I finish reading it.” Nurmahdi rushed out of the house and gave the small child in his arms to a nearby neighbor.

Reading the Bible made Nurmahdi’s heart uneasy. He wanted to talk with a Christian. Finally, Nurmahdi decided to go to the police station where the Christian policeman worked. He thought maybe the policeman would not be afraid and would not run away again when he sees him.

To be continued.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org.

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