President Joko Widodo
In Indonesia, the situation for Christians has been deteriorating in recent years, with Indonesian society taking on a more conservative Islamic character. Christians who grew up in a Muslim home often experience persecution from their families. However, the persecution intensity varies given the individual family and location. In many homes, families will verbally abuse their Christian family members and isolate them because of their faith. Only a small percentage of converts face physical violence for their Christian faith.
The level of persecution also depends on the region of Indonesia where Christians live. In certain hot spots, like West Java or Aceh, extremist Islamic groups are strong and heavily influence society and politics. If they catch Christians evangelizing, believers could run into problems. Also, non-traditional church groups tend to experience difficulties getting permission for building churches. Even if they manage to fulfill all legal requirements (including winning court cases), the local authorities still often ignore them.
Indonesia rose two spots on the 2021 World Watch List in comparison to last year’s list. This is primarily due to the fact that more pressure against Christians was reported, resulting in an increase of pressure in almost spheres. There have been no bomb attacks against churches for a second year in a row, but churches still can have a hard time meeting. One pastor in Papua was killed, allegedly by a government soldier, and more than 50 people have been evicted from their land in East Nusa Tenggara. Dozens of Islamic extremists have been arrested by the authorities and attacks have been foiled.
There have been some positive developments in Indonesia. As reported by the Jakarta Post, for the first time since taking office, President Jokowi has cautiously spoken out against the difficulties believers of minority religions face when they want to set up a new place of worship.
The primary hotbed of persecution in Indonesia is the province of Aceh at the northwestern tip of Sumatra—the only province governed by Shariah law. Churches endured large-scale closures in October 2015, and the building of new churches is impossible there, and very difficult in other provinces. Converts from Islam run the risk of facing severe opposition in many parts of Indonesia, but converts in Aceh probably face the strongest pressure.
Open Doors partners with local mission agencies in Indonesia to enrich both field workers and new believers, and to strengthen the church. Our work helps Muslim-background believers, the distribution of Bibles and other Christian materials, micro-loans, discipleship training, and even safe houses when Christians are in danger.