They Cry in Silence Nov/Dec 2005
Good news and bad news are coming out of Indonesia. As you may know, this is a country dominated by Muslims (88 percent), many of whom are radically opposed to Christians and any others who differ from their beliefs. The Laskar Jihad, said to be allied with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida, and the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) have severely persecuted believers in that far-flung island nation.
Despite laws banning people from taking matters into their own hands and afflicting the innocent, police in West Java have admitted to helping hard-liners close dozens of churches in Bandung. More than 30 churches have been shut down and its members traumatized by fanatical Islamists.
Relief for the Christians has appeared from a totally unexpected source. Former Indonesian President Kiai Haj Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia’s most renowned Muslim leader, warned the extremist FPI to stop all hostilities against Christians in Indonesia. Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, leads the largest Muslim group in the country, said to have more than 40 million members.
Mathias Hariyadi reported for AsiaNews that Gus Dur warned he “would not hesitate” to send a paramilitary force to help defend the Christians if the violence did not cease. “I strongly urge FPI leaders and its members to consider seriously my warning,” Gus Dur said. “I want this message clearly understood.” Hariyadi reported that Gus Dur called it a “serious mistake” that the extremists closed the churches.
On the other hand, three Indonesian housewives have been convicted of “Christianizing” Muslim children and were sentenced to three years in prison. The women taught the children in “Happy Sunday” clubs and Sunday school, with the parents’ permission.
International Christian Concern reported, “The verdict may actually have spared the three a worse fate.” Jeff Hammond, director of Bless Indonesia Today, told ASSIST News Service (ANS) the witnesses and judges were “constantly under the threats of violence from hundreds of Islamic radicals who threatened to kill the three ladies, witnesses, pastors, missionaries—and even the judges—if the women were acquitted.” Islamic radicals were bused to the trial daily, shouting “death to Christianity,” and demanding Islamic-style justice. Storming the courtroom with cries of Allahu akbar (“God is great”), they did everything to disrupt the proceedings.
If the three were acquitted or given light sentences, Muslims vowed to bring Islamic justice and shed their own “sweet-smelling” blood as martyrs in jihad, John M. Lindner reported for ANS.
Islamists told the teachers they will never forgive them or let them return home in peace. They also promised to punish their supporters.
Keep in mind that these housewives were convicted of teaching youngsters the Bible and the simple stories it contains for children. The case is yet more evidence of the magnitude of the struggle now taking place across the face of the globe. Yes, a scattered few moderate Muslims are beginning to react to the relentless persecution of Christians. In Indonesia it may well be that Western aid and the unstinting efforts of Christians in helping the country’s tsunami victims have favorably altered their thinking. But the fact remains that there is still a war on. It is global in scope, vicious in nature, and believers worldwide are the targets. Thus it behooves each of us to pray for our persecuted brethren and do all we can to make their plight known.