Lutheran Church of Australia Bishop John Henderson is calling on LCA members to pray for Christians in Indonesia facing attacks on their churches and people, as well as for those behind the attacks. Dear Friends, As we celebrate Advent, and prepare for the coming in Christ in the relative peace of New Zealand and Australia, […]
Lutheran Church of Australia Bishop John Henderson is calling on LCA members to pray for Christians in Indonesia facing attacks on their churches and people, as well as for those behind the attacks.
As we celebrate Advent, and prepare for the coming in Christ in the relative peace of New Zealand and Australia, things are not so straightforward for our neighbours in Indonesia.
Indonesia is sometimes described as the world’s largest Muslim nation. While over 85% of Indonesia’s 260 million people are indeed Muslim, over 25 million are Christian—more than the population of Australia! Over 6 million of the Christians are Lutheran, members of 13 Lutheran Churches that LCA partners with through its International Mission arm.
According to its constitution, Indonesia is a secular state like Australia and New Zealand that claims to uphold freedom of religion. Indonesia tries to maintain a reputation in the West as a “beacon of moderate Islam”. Throughout its history, however, this reputation has been regularly threatened by the activities of hard-line Indonesian Muslims, who seek the complete Islamisation of Indonesia. They have a low tolerance and respect for unorthodox Muslims, Christians, and other religious minorities living alongside them. Certainly Indonesia is not in the top ranks of countries in the world where Christians are being persecuted. But in many Muslim majority parts of Indonesia, the road is not easy. Christians face discrimination in employment and in court, difficulty gaining permits for churches, attacks on their churches and the chronic threat of personal attack by Islamic hardliners.
In recent weeks the vulnerability of Indonesian Christians has again been in evidence, with religiously motivated unrest following accusations by hard-line Muslims that ethnic Chinese Christian Governor of Jakarta, Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama, had insulted the Quran. In Jakarta, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front mobilised over 100,000 people to condemn Governor Ahok in a protest that turned violent. Around the country others also took the chance to have a go at Christians. On Sunday 13 November a bomb was detonated in a church yard in Sumatra, killing a little girl and injuring other children. Unrest across the country was serious enough to prompt Indonesian President Joko Widodo to postpone a planned trip to Australia.
Jakarta’s Christian Governor Ahok now faces court on a charge of blasphemy. Blasphemy charges have become increasingly common in recent years in Indonesia. A blasphemy accusation is a convenient way to intimidate the whole Christian community and pressure them to convert to Islam or to leave the area. People accused of blasphemy in Indonesia are almost inevitably found guilty and can be imprisoned for up to five years.
In the face of attacks on their churches and their people, Indonesia’s Lutheran bishops call for peace and encourage their people to pray for their attackers. Let us also pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Indonesia and for those who cause destruction and spread fear.
God of love and justice, we pray
- For mixed-faith societies in Indonesia, here in Australia and New Zealand, and around the world
- For political and religious leaders,
– who hear your call to lead with integrity and responsibility
– who promote ways of ordering mixed-faith societies that are truly in line with your will and that effectively counter attempts by radicals to sow hatred and conflict
– whose efforts will lead to strong, respectful and trusting relationships in mixed-faith societies, so that in spite of their religious differences and disagreements, people of different faiths can peacefully live and work together, and be free to evangelise to each other.
- For persecuted Christians everywhere, that they may respond with grace and love, and thereby transform the hearts of those who oppress them.
- For Christians suffering severe discrimination and persecution, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, the cradle of Christianity, where people trace their faith right back to the first and second centuries AD.
- For ourselves, that we can acknowledge and repent of our own tendency to demonise others and put them down, and to focus only on our differences and not the things we hold in common.
Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray
Read more stories about our partner churches in Indonesia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/indonesia/