Open Doors 2019 World Watch List was recently released. Indonesia was previously ranked #38 on the list of the most severe places for Christians to live. But on the new list, it was ranked as #30, Mission Network News reports.
FMI’s Bruce Allen says Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim majority nation, but the country has been known for its moderation in the past. So what changed?
“In the last year, it has gotten tougher for the Christian minority because there is an increase in the voice, the threats, the attacks from radical Muslims. That also alarms the government there because they don’t want to see that,” Allen says.
Allen looks at more than the World Watch List’s rankings, though. He also looks at the country’s score. This information reveals the degree and type of discriminatation and persecution Christians are experiencing on the ground. Allen calls this the “squeeze and smash” factors against Christians.
Interestingly enough, ten years ago, Indonesia barely made it onto the World Watch List. Since then, it has been moving towards the more extreme end of the list’s rankings. Just in the last year, Allen says persecution against Christians in Indonesia has gotten about 10 percent worse.
“A lot of that has to do with the fact this coming April is their national elections. So, as we know here in the U.S., when you have an election year, you have a lot of campaign rhetoric. A lot of extreme positions [have been] announced and put forth by candidates. Radical Muslims have been emboldened by some recent social events, and so they’re really ratcheting up their rhetoric and their followers are doing a lot of damage in society,” Allen says.
Indonesia is made up of thousands of smaller islands, but the majority of the population lives on the island of Java. Allen says in all, there are about 5 to 6 primary islands where the majority of the population resides.
“On these larger islands you’ll have areas that have embraced the Gospel, that have people who are living civilly with their neighbors, and there’s none of those persecution problems. But even on these islands, because some of them are rather big, you can get these isolated pockets of radical Islam, and it is spreading,” Allen says.
Despite the challenges and persecution, many FMI partners in Indonesia want to get to the difficult-to-reach places, the places where radicals live. These pastors and church planters have chosen to not turn their backs on their enemies but to pursue them with the Gospel because they need Christ’s love and forgiveness, too.
FMI has already added about six more partners in Indonesia, but the organization needs people to come alongside and support these workers.
“The Christian leaders there are courageous. They’re continuing their church planting ministries, but it is difficult, and they need our support. They rely on our encouragement, our prayers, financial assistance even,” Allen says.
Christians who do pioneer evangelism where radical Muslims live risk their safety. Allen says during one situation, a group of Muslims with machetes surrounded the Christians (who were meeting with new believers to disciple them) and told them to stop. Still, these courageous believers persevere.