There are 34.2 million Christians in Indonesia – a large number, but only about 12% of the country’s population. There are more Muslims in Indonesia than any other country in the world.
Indonesia has taken on a more conservative Islamic character in recent years, which can put pressure on Christians, especially those from Muslim backgrounds.
Indonesians brought up as Muslims who become Christian believers will likely face disapproval, intense pressure to return to Islam, verbal abuse and possibly social isolation. In some cases, families will withdraw all support, and married women may keep their new faith secret to avoid the threat of their husbands divorcing them. Some women are faced with lots of psychological abuse, including death threats, for practising Christianity.
In some provinces like Aceh, women are required to wear Islamic dress (a hijab), and Christian women not complying with this may face bullying, interrogation and labelling as 'immoral women'.
Thanks to effective anti-terror police, physical violence towards Christians by Islamic extremists is not common, but many new Christians in Indonesia will seek to leave their home community and relocate somewhere else to get away from the harassment.
If a church is seen to be preaching and spreading the gospel, they soon run into opposition from Islamic extremist groups, especially in rural areas. In some regions of Indonesia, non-traditional churches struggle to get permission for church buildings, with the authorities often ignoring their paperwork.
“My mum tried to compel me to return to Islam. She hid the rice so that my family and I could not eat.”Doni, a believer from a Muslim background, disapproved of by his family
Doni (name changed) converted from Islam to Christianity about five years ago – and has been rejected by his wider family because of this.
Doni used to have his own coffee shop in the city. However, it went bankrupt during the pandemic. Having nothing to survive in the city, he decided to move back to his hometown, with his wife and one-year-old, to live with his mother.
“There, I faced persecution because I am a Christian,” he says. “My mum tried to compel me to return to Islam.” She didn’t just use verbal persuasion and abuse, though these were very hard for Doni. She also taught Doni’s child to pray Muslim prayers, and tried to take away their food when Doni refused to give up his faith in Jesus: “She hid the rice so that my family and I could not eat.”
“I decided to leave and started a new life,” he says. His mother, however, cursed them and said that he and his family would have an accident and die while traveling to the city. Doni was deeply hurt by this.
Open Doors partners have been able to find a house for Doni and his family to live in, and have given him help with a new food business. “Support from Open Doors provides me a place to live and capital to start a business,” he says. “Thank you. You have no idea how precious your help is for me.”
Indonesia dropped five places on the World Watch List, though this is mostly because persecuted worsened in other countries. The situation for Christians in Indonesia did not change very much in the past year. While the threat of violent attacks by Islamic extremists seems to have curbed, except for 'lone wolf' attacks, violence against Christians still takes place – including some faith-based murders.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Indonesia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors local partners strengthen persecuted Christians in Indonesia by providing Bibles and Christian books, socio-economic empowerment projects, discipleship and persecution survival training and relief aid.
Dear God, You are 'the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles' (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). May all those Christians experiencing rejection, discrimination or isolation for their faith know the depths of this comfort. We pray that family members would increasingly keep their hearts and minds open when one of their own comes to know You. Amen.
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