Indonesia grapples with increasing intolerance

Persecution | As court considers case of Christian governor accused of blasphemy, Muslims admit the country has a persecution problem
by Douglas Flanders
Posted 1/13/17, 10:01 am

After riots and violence against religious minorities in 2016, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization admitted the country has a religious intolerance crisis.

The Jakarta Post reported that the group, Nahdlatul Ulama, said violent protests against minority religions and groups in 2016 were putting Indonesia’s goal of “Unity in Diversity” at risk. Last month, tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets in opposition to Jakarta’s first Chinese Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as “Ahok,” for purportedly blaspheming the Quran during a campaign speech.

Ahok is popular but if convicted of blasphemy could spend up to five years in jail and forfeit his office to one of his Muslim opponents. Amnesty International says a conviction would be giving in to radical agitators and creating a suppressive environment for all minorities. Ahok maintains his innocence, pointing out that his adoptive parents and brother are Muslim. 

Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, is 87 percent Muslim, but has six official religions and 245 unofficial ones. It also is home to one of the largest Chinese Christian churches in the world, the Messiah Cathedral led by Stephen Tong. Constitutionally, the country has a secular government that guarantees religious freedom for all.

Douglas Flanders

Douglas Flanders is a graduate of the WJI Mid-Career Course.

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