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Indonesia: Christian governor accused of blasphemy

December 6, 2016

In Indonesia an important Christian Governor or politician is set to be tried for blasphemy after around 100,000 Muslim radicals took to the streets and demanded he be arrested.

The governor, Basuki Cahaya Purnama, has been accused of ‘desecrating’ the Quran when he said in a speech that Islamic groups who were using a verse from the Quran to discourage support for him were deceiving voters. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Islamic groups then accused him of criticising the Quran.

Despite a public apology, Ahok will now stand trial.

Initially, the rally of around 100,000 Muslim radicals from across Indonesia was peaceful, even though they were calling for Ahok be prosecuted for blasphemy. Later, though, it turned violent: one protestor died, police officers were injured, and two motorcycles were burnt.

President Joko Widodo, who inaugurated the Christian governor, expressed his views on the protest: “I deeply regret the chaos later in the evening. Political actors are taking advantage of the situation.”

The case shows how religion is used for political gains in Indonesia.

In February 2017, local elections throughout the country will see cities and provinces choose their mayors and governors. Purnama is running for a second term as Governor of Jakarta, along with two other candidates, one of whom is the former president’s son.

Religious unrest has clearly been been stirred to deter his campaign and damage his rising popularity – despite the governor’s successes in reforming the Jakarta.

Double standards

An Open Doors field researcher explains some of the context: “In a recently circulated video clip, a hardline group leader was caught saying the same remark as Purnama about the Quran. Quite predictably, it wasn’t deemed as blasphemy.

“While persecution of Christians in Indonesia is nothing new, it’s perhaps the first time that it’s blatantly being used against a high-ranking public official at a national level. This will not happen without repercussions in the grassroots.”

It’s possible that those repurcussions included the recent church bombing in Kalimantan where a toddler died and three others were injured. This terrible attack took place nine days after the protest against Purnama.

Indonesia ranks as number 43 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List. It hosts the world’s largest Muslim population, the majority of which practises moderate Islam. However, fundamentalism has been on the rise, causing Christians and other religious minorities to be more vulnerable to false accusations and injustice in law enforcement.

Pray now

  • For God’s protection, sustenance, and comfort upon Basuki Cahaya Purnama and his wife and children. May they experience inner peace and draw closer to Him throughout the turmoil
  • For the upcoming trials against him to be just and fair
  • For the widening rift between Christians and Muslims in the society, as many are taking opposing sides around this issue. May the believers continue to love their neighbours and be effective witnesses of Christ, and may the society at large not too be easily provoked by religious issues.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.