Islamic radicalism is steadily gaining ground in Indonesia, particularly in rural areas. In 17 provinces—roughly half of the country geographically—Christians face restrictions and hostility from local authorities and fundamentalist Muslims. This ongoing tension has created an environment of hostility between Muslims and Christians. Since believers avoid interacting with their Muslim neighbors, evangelism is practically nonexistent, especially since many local believers are uneducated about Islam and often conditioned to hold a negative view of all Muslims.
To help change the relations between Christians and Muslima, Open Doors has supported several Islam Awareness Seminars. In 2013, the training reached 157 church leaders, church workers, and lay believers located in two volatile provinces in Indonesia. The two main purposes for this training were to spur more interaction between Christians and Muslims and to rekindle a passion for the lost among Indonesian churches, so they will remain faithful to their calling, in spite of the persecution.
Gaining knowledge about Islam has provided participants with a boost in confidence to interact with Muslims. “I’ve mingled with more Muslims since the seminar,” one of the participants shared. “Now that I understand their teachings better, I can start a conversation about a topic they’re familiar with.” Another participant asserted, “I feel more confident and at ease when talking with them. I wasn’t as confident before the training because I didn’t understand their world.”
As interactions increase, Christians are more likely to gain acceptance from and establish real relationships with Muslims in their communities. One of the participants described his experience, “We participate more in community gatherings with Muslims. This way they don’t think we’re arrogant or exclusive.”
Community acceptance has helped some Christians gain strategic and influential positions that are critical for peace building. Agus*, a politician who participated in the seminar, is vying for a spot in the local parliament. “In the process, I interact with many Muslims who accuse me of pushing a Christian agenda—which is true to some extent.” He shared. “But I’ve been able to win them over by sharing my Islamic knowledge! Now they see me as a nationalist. I owe this accomplishment to the seminar.”
For many participants, what used to be seen as a threat has become an outreach opportunity. As paradigms are shifting, the spiritual fervor to preach the gospel is being rekindled.
Yacob*, a Muslim background evangelist, shares an example of this, “In my church, outreach to Muslims was not encouraged. It made me uneasy and deep down I wanted to reach out to them. Then came the seminar; it set my evangelistic spirit on fire.”
Encouraged by the seminar, Yacob has begun to venture back into the Muslim community and preach the gospel. “I never knew that God could use me to reach Muslims,” he said. “This is all thanks to the seminar.”
*Name changed for security reasons.