Wednesday, August 3, 2011

119. Indonesia: dangerous days for Christians

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 119 | Wed 03 Aug 2011

INDONESIA: DANGEROUS DAYS FOR CHRISTIANS

By Elizabeth Kendal

China is not landlocked, but it might as well be. China's coast does not open to the Pacific Ocean (where the US Navy is supreme) but opens to the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. To get to the Pacific Ocean, Chinese ships must navigate through archipelagos controlled by various US allies: Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia is especially strategic, straddling the Pacific and Indian Oceans and controlling some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Indonesia's geo-strategic value is rising in line with China's economic and military ascendancy. Because Beijing is aggressively courting Jakarta, the US is reluctant to challenge Indonesia over declining religious liberty. Because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is dependent on Islamist support in parliament, he is reluctant to challenge Islamists over escalating and increasingly violent Islamic intolerance. All this leaves Indonesia's Christian minority increasingly vulnerable.

On 24 January an Indonesian court sentenced three soldiers to eight, nine and ten months imprisonment for insubordination after video footage emerged showing the soldiers torturing Papuan civilians -- beating, burning, knifing and suffocating them. Whilst the US expressed regret over the leniency of the sentences, they praised the fact that the soldiers were tried at all, hailing it as 'progress'. (Without the trial, the US would have been obliged by its own laws to withhold military aid.) On 6 February a 1500-strong Muslim mob attacked a house in Cikeusik village, Banten Province, West Java, where a small number of Ahmaddiya Muslims -- regarded as heretical by mainstream Muslims -- were meeting for worship. Video footage posted on Youtube and broadcast worldwide shows Muslims hacking and bludgeoning the 'infidels' to death as the assailants' supporters cheer and shout 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is great). Three Ahmadiyya were killed and five were seriously wounded, and Ahmaddiya property was torched. On Thursday 28 July Serang District Court in Java sentenced 12 of the instigators and killers to prison for between three and six months. As the deputy director for Asia of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, notes: 'The Cikeusik trial sends the chilling message that attacks on minorities like the Ahmadiyya will be treated lightly by the legal system.'

Religious liberty is seriously threatened in Indonesia and Christian security is increasingly tenuous. West Java is a hotbed of militant Islamic fundamentalism where Christians are less than two percent of the population. As tensions escalate and protection diminishes, Christians in West Java and restive Papua become increasingly vulnerable. In June last year, at the second Bekasi Islamic Congress held in Al-Azhar Mosque, Bekasi, West Java, Muslims there were instructed to form Islamic paramilitaries in readiness for a war against Christians. See 'Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia: Dhimmitude or death' (12 July 2010)

On 23 July 2011 Fides [Catholic] News Service reported they had received an 'SOS' appeal from The Indonesian Christian Church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia -- GKI), a Protestant denomination. This warned of such tension that 'the Christian faithful are at risk of mass persecution'. The GKI cites impunity as a major factor fuelling the Islamic fundamentalist trend towards violence. In Bogor and Bekasi, suburbs of Jakarta, West Java, local authorities are defying the law (including Supreme Court rulings) at the expense of Christians to appease belligerent Islamic fundamentalists. At a recent City Council meeting in Bogor, authorities threatened 'mass mobilisation' against 'the Christians of the GKI'. In other words: submit in silence or risk suffering and death!

Islamic zeal and belligerence will escalate through August as Ramadan progresses . These are dangerous days for the vulnerable Christians of West Java and restive Papua. Though the world's powers abandon them, our supreme and sovereign God never will.

THEREFORE, LET US PRAY THAT GOD WILL:

* draw his people into prayerful dependence, that they might 'wait for him' (Isaiah 30:18) and see his salvation; through it all, may the Indonesian Church -- in grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit -- be light, salt and yeast for the glory of God.

* intervene for the protection of his people and the advance of the gospel in Indonesia.

* expose the intolerance of Islam, while frustrating the schemes of the wicked (Psalm 146:9).

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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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DANGEROUS DAYS FOR CHRISTIANS IN INDONESIA

Because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono depends on Islamist support in parliament, he is reluctant to challenge the issue of increasingly violent Islamic intolerance. Because the ascendant China is courting Indonesia, the US is reluctant to challenge Indonesia over its serious decline in religious liberty. West Java is a hotbed of militant Islamic fundamentalism where Christians are less than two percent of the population. Last year Muslims there were called to form Islamic paramilitary forces in readiness for jihad. As tensions grow and protection diminishes, Christians in West Java and Papua become increasingly vulnerable. Islamic zeal and belligerence will escalate as Ramadan progresses during August. A city council has threatened 'mass mobilisation' against the Christian population, for whom these are dangerous days. Please pray for God's intervention and for divine protection.

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