In Tranquil Bali, All is Not as it Seems: Indonesia's Religious Tensions – Hope 103.2

In Tranquil Bali, All is Not as it Seems:
Indonesia’s Religious Tensions

By Clare BruceWednesday 18 Jan 2017

Above: Children in Indonesia. All images from Open Doors.

If you’re reading this from a deck chair on Kuta Beach or a Bali resort, take a moment to say a prayer for the Christians living nearby.

Because life for them isn’t easy; if they manage to remain on the staunchly Hindu island at all.

The 2017 ‘World Watch List’ report into the persecution of Christians, says persecution in Indonesia is ‘high’, listing it as one of the 50 toughest places in the world to be a follower of Jesus. Australia’s closest neighbour comes in at 46th place on the ranking, with most anti-Christian persecution there coming from Islamic oppression.

But Hindu opposition is a problem, too.

Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world, and while it’s traditionally been considered a place of great Islamic tolerance, that is now changing. Christians have been experiencing greater levels of persecution, and Muslim extremist groups have become more vocal.

A village in Indonesia

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Bali, however, is a little different. Just one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, its population is mostly Hindu, with its residents banding together in strongly religious Hindu villages.

According to a ChristianAid report, Christians are “not welcome in many of the staunchly Hindu villages” in Bali. “If a Balinese villager becomes a believer, he or she is sometimes forced to leave their home and is considered accursed by their family members.”

Government Indifference Towards Christians

The 2017 World Watch List says Indonesia’s churches “are not usually opposed by the government, but neither are they supported”.

Church communities have faced Islamic opposition ranging from being barred from their buildings, shut down, or seeing their buildings burned. Religious violence has at times left thousands of Christians displaced.

In 2015, thousands of Christians were expelled from a Pathfinders camp that was held during Ramadan, while in 2011 a suicide bomber attacked the Full Gospel Bethel Church in Solo, Java.

Indonesian children

Open Doors CEO Mike Gore said Australians are often surprised to hear of the suffering of Christians in what is one of our nation’s popular holiday destinations.

“Indonesia and Bali are common destinations for Australians, but what most people don’t see when they go to those places is life for Christians,” Mike said.

“We often fail to realise that the closest country to us is in the list of top 50 most difficult places to be a Christian.”

Open Doors is calling on its supporters to pray for the Christians of Indonesia, including those who face pressure after converting from Islam, and children in public schools who must complete Islamic studies.

They also ask for prayers that the government will not give in to extremists, but will instead treat Christians with fairness and equality.

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