Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, has seen a rise in recent years of hard-line Islamic ideology. Only a generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as respectful equals in accordance with the state-promoted philosophy “Pancasila”. But now Christians (more than 15% of the population) experience many difficulties.
The threat from Islamic extremism, pressure from local authorities and hostility from the Muslim community vary greatly in intensity across the country. In the last twelve years, West Java with its large Christian population has seen the most incidents of intolerance towards Christians. But Aceh, which has implemented sharia even for non-Muslims under certain circumstances, is where the most severe persecution occurs.
Since the introduction of the 2006 decree on places of worship, over 1,000 church buildings have been forcibly closed on various pretexts and Christians prohibited from worshipping in many provinces, including West Sumatra, Jambi, Banten, DKI Jakarta, DI Yogyakarta and East Kalimantan. In 2019, a congregation in Riau was even stopped from worshipping in a tent after its church building was forced to shut. In Muslim-majority provinces, it is almost impossible to get permission to build a new church building.
The central government has taken some steps to try to combat the rise of hardline Islamism, especially in the civil service and schools. But in June 2020, the Communications and Information Ministry removed a Bible app in the Minang language from the Google Play Store at the request of the governor of West Sumatra. The mainly-Muslim Minangkabau are the fourth largest ethnic group in Indonesia.
The moderate Muslim movement, Nahdlatul Ulama, which claims to be the world’s largest Muslim organisation with 90 million adherents, has recently broken with classical Islamic teaching by abolishing the legal category of “infidel” (kafir) for non-Muslims.
Give thanks for the Muslim-background believers who come to faith and follow the Lord despite persecution. Pray that the Word of God will be available to all in Indonesia. Ask that church buildings be reopened, especially in Aceh.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet