Ahok, a Christian and former governor of Jakarta in Indonesia, has been released early from prison! His eldest son posted a photo of himself with his father on Instagram with the message: “He is back! My dad is free! Thanks everyone for the support.”
In a letter to his supporters this week, Ahok said, “Thank you for your prayers and support… I feel so loved and your love to me is better than gold and silver and other wealth.”
Ahok asked people not to hold a parade to welcome him for the sake of public order, or to camp out in front of the prison and said, “I am very thankful to God, the Creator of heaven and earth, for allowing me to spend time in prison. I am grateful that I was not elected in the 2017 Jakarta’s Governor Election. Should I be elected, I would have become a man who controlled the city. But here, I learn to control myself.”
Ahok – whose full name is Basuki Tjahaya Purnama – was sentenced to two years in prison after he was accused of blasphemy in May 2017, in a politically-motivated attack during his re-election campaign.
He was the capital’s first Christian and ethnic minority governor since the 1960s. He was accused of ‘desecrating’ the Quran when he said in a speech that Islamic groups were misusing a verse in the Quran to discourage support for him. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim.
Around 100,000 Muslim radicals took to the streets and demanded he be prosecuted. One protestor died, police officers were injured, and two motorcycles were burnt.
“A hardline group leader was caught saying the same remark as Ahok about the Quran. Quite predictably, it wasn’t deemed as blasphemy,” said an Open Doors field researcher.
In 2017, when Ahok was imprisoned, Indonesia was number 46 on the Open Doors World Watch List. It now sits at number 30. Although Indonesia’s constitution promotes religious freedom, Islamic extremist groups are becoming more influential in pushing for an Islamic nation. Some regions of Indonesia already operate under Islamic law (Sharia), which poses a threat to Christians and other religious minorities.
Believers from Muslim backgrounds often face persecution from their families and communities and are put under pressure to renounce their faith. Churches are hard to build; even if congregations manage to fulfil all the legal requirements, local authorities can still deny them permission. Children of Christians often face verbal abuse; they are called infidels and are sometimes made to sit at the back in class. While believers in Indonesia don’t usually face violent persecution, in 2018, 18 Christians were killed and many more wounded in a co-ordinated suicide bomb attack on three churches in the city of Surabaya.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.