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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #47

INDONESIA

Country rank

47

Persecution score

63.09

Last year’s rank

50

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Islamic oppression (Very strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

272,223,000

Christians

33,192,000 (12.2%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Joko Widodo

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Indonesia through:
• Bible and Christian literature distribution
• Equipping and training
• Fostering unity among churches and mission agencies
• Socio-economic development
• Emergency aid relief

ABOUT INDONESIA

What does persecution look like in Indonesia?

In Indonesia, the situation for Christians has been deteriorating in recent years, with Indonesian society taking on a more conservative Islamic character. Christians who grew up in a Muslim home often experience persecution from their families. However, the persecution intensity varies given the individual family and location. In many homes, families will verbally abuse their Christian family members and isolate them because of their faith. Only a small percentage of converts face physical violence for their Christian faith. 

The level of persecution also depends on the region of Indonesia where they live. In certain hot spots, like West Java or Aceh, extremist Islamic groups are strong and heavily influence society and politics. If they catch Christians evangelizing, believers could run into problems. Also, non-traditional church groups tend to experience difficulties getting permission for building churches. Even if they manage to fulfill all legal requirements (including winning court cases), the local authorities still often ignore them. 

There have been some positive developments in Indonesia. As reported by the Jakarta Post, for the first time since taking office, President Jokowi has cautiously spoken out against the difficulties believers of minority religions face when they want to set up a new place of worship.  

How women experience persecution

Gender inequality in Indonesia is an ongoing issue acknowledged by the government; however, patriarchal gender norms, child marriage and high maternal mortality rates remain largely unaddressed, and it is estimated that one-third of Indonesian women have suffered physical or sexual abuse. 

In this context, most reports of persecution facing Christian women and girls have to do with the threat of divorce, which means losing their physical and economic security, more so in the rural areas. Christian women who are the first in their household to convert to Christianity are most vulnerable to forced divorce. In a patriarchal system, it is harder for the wife to influence the husband. 

In addition, Christian women are marginalized through enforced religious dress codes. In provinces like Aceh, women are required to wear a hijab, especially within the government office. In the 2019/2020 school year, a new issue of contention has arisen around enforced dress code affecting mostly Christian girls: Some state-run schools now want to implement regulations to force female pupils to wear a hijab.  

How men experience persecution

In Indonesia, much persecution is endured equally by both women and men; however, men usually endure less persecution than women in private areas of life. Instead, reports indicate that prominent male figures like Christian pastors are the primary targets for public religious discrimination. They are likely to face physical violence and government imprisonment for charges such as “inciting religious hatred.” 

What has changed this year?

Indonesia rose two spots on the 2021 World Watch List in comparison to last year’s list. This is primarily due to the fact that more pressure against Christians was reported, resulting in an increase of pressure in almost spheres. There have been no bomb attacks against churches for a second year in a row, but churches still can have a hard time meeting. One pastor in Papua was killed, allegedly by a government soldier, and more than 50 people have been evicted from their land in East Nusa Tenggara. Dozens of Islamic extremists have been arrested by the authorities and attacks have been foiled. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The primary hotbed of persecution in Indonesia is the province of Aceh at the northwestern tip of Sumatra—the only province governed by Shariah law. Churches endured large-scale closures in October 2015, and the building of new churches is impossible there, and very difficult in other provinces. Converts from Islam run the risk of facing severe opposition in many parts of Indonesia, but converts in Aceh probably face the strongest pressure. 

How can I help Christians in Indonesia

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Indonesia?

Open Doors partners with local mission agencies in Indonesia to enrich both field workers and new believers, and to strengthen the church. Our work helps Muslim background believers, the distribution of Bibles and other Christian materials, microloans, discipleship training, and even safe houses when Christians are in danger. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Indonesia, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christians who leave Islam and are heavily pressured by family and community to renounce their new faith in Jesus. Ask God to give them the support they need—as well as access to a Bible and the training to read it and grow.  

-Pray that churches who are trying to obtain locations for worship would find favor with the government and be granted freedom to gather and worship in peace. 

-Pray that God would give ministry leaders and volunteers the boldness and perseverance they need to both lead and serve the church in Indonesia. 

-Pray for Christian children and teens, who often face discrimination and isolation for their faith. Ask God to give them hope, to strengthen their faith—and to know that they are not alone in Christ.   

 

A PRAYER FOR INDONESIA

Father, please give Indonesian Christians the boldness and strength they need to serve you in an environment that seeks to push them out for believing in You. Be with the Christians who face daily struggles in their Muslim homes and families. Give them grace to live out their faith as an example of Your love. And Father, please give our brothers and sisters more freedom to worship You—and more locations to gather in Your name. We pray all of this in Your powerful name, Jesus. Amen.