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12/22/2021 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Indonesia’s security forces are deploying across the country to protect Christian worshipers as they gather to celebrate Christmas. 

In a story shared by UCA News, Indonesian security forces will be deployed across Indonesia to keep peace and security during this Christmas week. The government has ordered nearly 180,000 police officers to protect churches, malls, and major gathering spaces, with a specific commitment of around 43,000 police officers assigned to protect Indonesia’s Christian churches. Indonesia’s churches have often been a target for Islamic extremists, particularly during their most holy times of the year. 

This comes at a time where the national government of Indonesia continues to promote a sense of religious tolerance, particularly around the Christian holidays, however, it is met with pushback from local Islamic groups who often reject and fight against this religious tolerance. 

While Indonesia has affirmed its national policy of religious freedom, the country is heavily dominated by members of the Islamic faith, making up 86% of the population. While the Indonesian government has tried to promote religious tolerance across the archipelago, it does keep a system of religious regulation. However, compared to its regional neighbors, the Indonesian government has shown themselves far more accepting on a governmental level. The country has seen Christians assume high-level government offices, including Former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or ‘Ahok.’ However, this arrangement has not always been foolproof, as Islamic mobs have cast outrage at the growing Christian populations and demanded punishment for any minor offenses that have been committed by Christians – including blasphemy charges, like those levelled against the former governor. While many saw this charge as unreasonable, it was enforced after Islamic mobs rioted for condemnation and imprisonment. 

Under this Islamic majority, Christians have continued to face greater hostility across the country, largely on a local and provincial level. Christians have been the targets of attacks on churches by Islamic Radicals with ties to the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. They have also been the target of Islamic Courts and sympathetic local governments in Islamic dominated states. Christians have regularly been denied equal treatment under Indonesian law for even simple privileges, like acquiring city building permits 

Many in Indonesia’s government have tried to use religion to inform government actions, making religious fervor a means to engage narrow political groups and centralize power, particularly with Indonesia’s Islamic majorities. However, current president Joko Widodo has continued to advocate for a greater separation between the government and religion, a move many allege as ‘too secular.’ 

Regardless, the government’s announcement to deploy a police presence around the country, is a welcome decision by many Christians in the country. Christians can celebrate with more peace of mind this season knowing their plight is seen.