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Explore Christian Persecution by Country


About Christian persecution in Indonesia

Although Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, it has a history of toleration unlike few others. The founding constitution mandates that everyone believes in one God but guarantees equal rights for all, and in the 1960’s, President Suharto required everyone to belong to five “religions”, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism or Buddhism. This created a canopy of freedom unusual in the region, but with Indonesia being such a vast set of islands, local tensions and areas where Islamic extremism took hold created much anti-Christian violence and Christian persecution in Indonesia began to take root.

In the late 1990’s, a dreadful conflict between Muslims and Christians in Ambon left hundreds—if not thousands—dead, and in the province of Aceh, sharia law is in operation since 2014 although it is not supposed to apply to the Christians. The country is afflicted with mainly foreign backed Islamic extremist groups, which target Christians regularly, and younger people are becoming more observant Muslims, and in many cases, more strident.

In 2000, extremists planted bombs at churches on Christmas Eve in various cities, killing 18 people. The country’s most prominent Christian, the Governor of Jakarta, a Chinese Christian known as Ahok, was convicted on trumped up blasphemy charges and imprisoned for two years in 2016. Still, most Islam in the land is moderate, significantly due to the massive 100m member Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which is sympathetic to ideals of religious freedom and whose members even guard churches on Christmas Eve. It is Islamic movements backed by foreign funds that drive the persecution of Christians in this vast archipelago, and sometimes the government acts with alacrity to put a stop to it, and sometimes not.


President Joko Widodo



Christian pop.


“We belong, but we keep our heads down – except maybe in the bigger cities, but even there violence can be triggered against, for example Chinese Christians because anti-Muslim sentiments glue onto anti-Chinese ones.”


History of Christianity in Indonesia

Christianity came to Indonesia with the first Portuguese traders in the 16th century, enabling Catholicism to flourish particularly in the eastern islands of the vast archipelago, such as Maluki and Timor. But it was the Dutch colonists that left more impact when they established Reformed churches and expelled many Catholics.

In the 19th century a variety of Protestant missionaries arrived, but the Dutch Reformed church remained the most influential, with their Indonesian church leaders negotiating with the Dutch to leave the country in the aftermath of the second world war.

Tribes converted in large numbers such as the Bataks in Northern Sumatra, and the country saw a steady increase in Christians since then. Protestants are the largest group, with over two thirds of the total, the rest being Catholics and other groups. Their numbers are significant, second only in size among South East Asian nations to the Philippines.

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