President Joko Widodo
The persecution of Christians in Indonesia has worsened in recent years. There were three attacks on Christians within a six-month period between 2020 and 2021, killing eight believers, while Indonesian society has taken on a more conservative Islamic character, putting added pressure on Christians.
Many converts from Islam experience pressure from their families to return to Islam, although the intensity of the pressure varies according to the place and the individual’s family. Only a few converts face physical violence for their Christian faith. There are also converts from Hinduism in Bali.
Churches that engage in evangelistic outreach are at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremist groups. There are certain hotspots, such as West Java or Aceh, where extremist groups are strong and exert a strong influence on society and politics.
In some regions, church groups face difficulties getting permission to build churches. Even if they manage to fulfill all legal requirements (including winning court cases), the local authorities still often ignore them.
Wanda comes from a Muslim background. She became a Christian through a dream and the ministry of her cousin and friend. But she encountered persecution from her family, and was forced to move out. When COVID-19 hit, she struggled to provide for herself, until Open Doors local partners stepped in to help.
“One thing that I am so overwhelmed with is the love from my Christian friends. I feel like I have a new family, when my biological family abandoned me. I don’t feel alone in this new journey of my life.”
Sadly, the persecution of Christians in Indonesia has worsened considerably, making it one of the biggest risers on the World Watch List, jumping 19 places from last year.
While pressure has increased in the national and church spheres, the main cause of this rise is an increase in violence.
After two years without bomb attacks, suicide bombers targeted a church in Makassar in March 2021; thankfully, no one was killed. However, eight Christians were killed in two attacks in Central Sulawesi in November 2020 and May 2021. The terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT)—which has links to the Islamic State group—is responsible for the attacks.
The primary hotbed of persecution in Indonesia is Aceh in the northwestern tip of Sumatra, the only province that is governed by Shariah law. Churches were closed on a large scale in October 2015 and the building of new churches there is much more difficult than in other provinces. In fact, it is virtually impossible. Converts from Islam are vulnerable to severe opposition in many parts of Indonesia, but converts in Aceh probably face the greatest pressure.
Open Doors works through local church partners to support persecuted Christians in Indonesia by providing discipleship and persecution survival training, Bibles and Christian literature, socio-economic development projects, relief aid, advocacy support and opportunities for cross-church gatherings.