A Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin by Elizabeth Kendal, Special to ASSIST News Service
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (ANS – November 10, 2016) — On Friday, November 4th, up to 200,000 Islamic fundamentalists protested in Jakarta, calling for “Ahok” — the ethnic Chinese, Christian Governor of Jakarta — to be prosecuted, imprisoned, and even killed for alleged “blasphemy”.
When the protest descended into violence at the end of the day, one man died, at least 160 protesters and 79 police were injured, vehicles were torched, market stalls were looted and the Chinese-majority residential complex where Ahok and his family live was threatened. Organised by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), it was one of the largest demonstrations in Indonesia for many years.
Indonesia’s hardline Islamic fundamentalists have long opposed Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Elected as deputy governor in 2012, running with Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”), Ahok ascended to the governorship in the wake of Jokowi’s 2014 ascension to the presidency. In a foretaste of things to come, Jakarta’s Islamic hardliners — led by the FPI — were quick to protest, vowing to resist the “kafir” (unclean), infidel, “devil” governor [see RLPB 282 (Oct 14, 2014)]. Refusing to be intimidated, Ahok struck back, calling for the FPI to be disbanded. In January 2015 the Jakarta Globe named Ahok their “Man of the Year” and “Indonesia’s Shooting Star”.
Whilst Ahok’s alleged “blasphemy” was the pretext for the November 4th protests, the real motivation lies in the September 24th announcement that Ahok — a Christian — would be contesting Jakarta’s February 15, 2017 gubernatorial election. With polls showing Ahok the clear frontrunner, Islamic fundamentalist clerics moved quickly to remind Muslims that the Quran forbids Muslims from taking non-Muslims as allies or friends — and therefore governors — citing verses such as Sura 5:51 “… Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies [awliya] …” [https://quran.com/5:51]
In a speech to city officials on September 27th, Ahok responded by saying “Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to vote for me because you’ve been lied to [or fooled] with Surat Almaidah 51 [Sura 5:51] and the like. That’s your right. If you feel you can’t vote for me because you fear you’ll go to hell, because you’ve been lied to [or fooled], no worries. That’s your personal right … you don’t have to vote for Ahok.” (Translation by Sidney Jones). By October 5th, video footage of the speech had gone viral on YouTube and Islamic fundamentalists were claiming Ahok had blasphemed against the Quran and the clerics.
Though Ahok apologised, it was in vain. Having taken up the Sharia cudgel of anti-blasphemy, his opponents were not about to put it down. What is more, they were receiving strong support from transnational Islamists. Indonesia expert Sidney Jones reports that on October 29th, photographs appeared on social media of non-Indonesian and fully armed members of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, (previously known as al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) holding signs that said “Sentence Ahok or We Will Sentence Him with Bullets”, in front of a large wooden box labelled “Ahok’s Coffin”. On November 4th — the day of the Jakarta protest — Islamic State used their messaging services to encourage their supporters to use the rally “to fan the flames of jihad across the country”.
The police investigation into the alleged blasphemy has begun. Almost 100 lawyers have come forward offering to defend Ahok in the event that he is taken to court for blasphemy. If the case proceeds to trial, President Jokowi — who has been widely criticised for his silence and for failing to defuse the situation at the outset — wants it televised live and over in two weeks.
Please Pray Specifically For The Lord To:
* protect and sustain Ahok and all Indonesia’s Christians and churches — particularly at this time, those in Jakarta and the ethnic Chinese. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:2 NIV)
* redeem these tense times so that ever more Indonesians will be awakened to the repressive nature of Islam, so they will resist fundamentalist and militant Islam, rejecting creeping Islamisation and repression, and choose instead equality, justice and freedom.
* intervene in the spiritual battle for Indonesia, so that freedom will advance and the Church continue to grow.
Photo captions: 1) The November 4th rally in Jakarta: (Source Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay). 2) Ahok, after 9-hours of questioning, on November 7th: (Source Jakarta Post/Wendra Ajistyatama). 3) Elizabeth Kendal.
About the writer: Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She began working with the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) in July 1999, serving as Principal Researcher and Writer from January 2002 until April 2009 when she resigned in order to work independently. Elizabeth is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at the Melbourne School of Theology, and the Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF). In December 2014, Wittenberg Seminary (Canada) awarded Elizabeth an honorary Doctor of Ministry degree. Since July 1999 she has published a weekly religious liberty prayer bulletin to help facilitate strategic intercessory prayer, and well as routine reports containing additional religious liberty news and analysis. She is the author of two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016). For more information see: www.ElizabethKendal.com.
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