David Cameron is on a business promoting trip in the Far East with a large party of media hacks in tow. On BBC news two nights running we have been treated to Cameron telling crowds of Indonesian students, and also us, that: “What Indonesia is showing is that it is possible to develop a democracy and a modern economy that neither compromises people’s security nor their ability to practise their religion.”
Back in the real world.
In the last decade, an orchestrated Islamic jihad against Christians has destroyed thousands of churches in Indonesia. Some areas with large Christian populations (such as parts of Maluku) are subject to continued attacks. A Christian presence has been eradicated from whole towns and regions, with great loss of life and property.
This Easter, after years of holding Sunday services by the roadside in front of its sealed church, amid intimidation by hard line Islamic groups, the congregation of Yasmin GKI church in Bogor held a service in the home of one of its members. Due to intimidation the congregation now hold their services in secret, moving around the city. At one time they were protected by the police, no longer, the police are now involved in the attacks on the congregation says Bona Sigalingging spokesman for the congregation.
In Sukamuju in Rambah Sub district the villagers applied for and received permission on 23 November 2011 to build a church. The first brick was laid on 19 December 2011. Five months later permission was withdrawn and the site surrounded by barbed wire to prevent Christians entering. Local authorities say that the site will be used for other purposes and that the local Muslim population will not tolerate a Christian place of worship.
On 18 February the Sleman church in Yogyakarta was sealed by local authorities.
In a December 2011 statement by President Susilo Bambang Yuhoyono to assembled ambassadors he brushed off the rising tide of religious persecution in Indonesia as media hype. Wahyu Muryadi, editor in chief of Tempo magazine described the statement as, “A diplomatic one, an attempt to mask the reality. Tempo’s own observations of what is happening in Indonesia show an unsettling and increasing intensity in religious conflicts.”
On 25 September 2011 a bomb in Bethel Ijil Sepenhu church in central Java injured 20 people. The suicide bomber died.
In March 2011 a church in Indramayu in West Java was attacked by gunmen. Documents seized from the vehicle used in the attack included maps showing the sites of other churches in the region.
Navanetham Pillay, The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has approached the Indonesian government expressing concern about the way in which they are handling cases of religious persecution such as the burning of churches. There has been no response from the Indonesian government.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre has expressed concern about the ongoing violence against religious minorities in Indonesia.
In 1999 the United Nations had to send in armed Australian troops to East Timor to halt violence against Christians. The UN took over administration of the area and eventually in 2002 a new country, East Timor, was created. All due to widespread persecution of Christians by Islamic Indonesia
The evidence of widespread persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Indonesia is evident to all. Apart from David Cameron that is.
At a recent reception at No 10 David Cameron said of Christianity, “‘I think there’s something of a fightback going on, and we should welcome that.” But then, what with the need to do business with Muslim countries and with George Gall0way and Ken Livingstone busy hoovering up the Muslim vote at home he has to do something to appear Islam friendly. Pity about missing an opportunity to speak up for Christians, but then priorities are priorities.
As ever persecution of Christians backfires on the persecutors. Despite harassment, attack and outright persecution, Christian evangelicals in Indonesia have grown from 1.3 million to 13 million in the last 50 years.