Islamic State a New Worry for Indonesia’s Beleaguered Christians

Fears that Islamic State supporters may be planning attacks in Indonesia are a further concern to the country’s Christian community, who are already suffering from the growing Islamist presence in their country.

According to a report in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald daily newspaper, Indonesian police have stepped up security at places of worship, along with embassies and shopping malls, in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The newspaper interviewed a terrorism expert, Sidney Jones, Director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, who said that the risk of violence in the country was rising, with Islamic State calling especially for more kidnappings.

Earlier, on November 18th, Ms Jones told a gathering of ambassadors at a special briefing at the Jakarta Police headquarters that anti-Western propaganda was increasing in Indonesia. She noted that videos celebrating the Paris attacks were widespread.

Indonesia has long been seen as a moderate Muslim nation, a place where the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and where Christians comprise more than 10 per cent of the population.

Yet, writing back in January, I quoted from the “Operation World” prayer guide: “Islam’s strength and influence in numbers and power allow it to exert itself on the religious scene, giving itself preferential treatment and limiting Christian activities and public presence.”

Since that time, conditions have certainly worsened. For example, last month, as reported by BosNewsLife (October 30th), authorities in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province began tearing down church buildings.

This followed complaints from Islamists that the churches lacked the necessary building permits, even though it is notoriously difficult in Indonesia for Christian groups to obtain permits for new churches.

In fact, this month the Christianity Today magazine reported that more than 1,000 churches have been closed in the past nine years, and others have never been built, as a consequence of the building permit regulations. America’s Gatestone Institute has described it as an “Indonesian jihad” on Christian churches.

In January I wrote that increasingly it appeared that a violent and intolerant Islamist minority was intimidating the majority of Indonesians into passive silence. Now it is the government as well that, too often, is bowing to the Islamist threat.

Add to this the growing menace of Islamic State, which appears to be exerting a growing influence on certain sections of the population, and the outlook for Indonesia’s large Christian community does not appear reassuring.

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