Some 3,000 separate islands stretching over 1,700 miles in a string between S.E. Asia and Borneo, with a population of some 225 million, Indonesia is mostly Muslim but with a significant Christian presence of around 35 million. There are also other religious groups including Hindu, Buddist, and Confucian believers. Because of this, the country with its many island communities has been held up as a good example of inter faith co-existence, and freedom of religion has even been written into its Constitution. Where the religious groups are well mixed there is much tolerance. But where there is a particularly large Muslim majority, as in some islands, there has been growing a sharp rise in persecution of non-Muslims, particularly against Christians. This reflects the growing rise of militant Islam in many countries of the world over the last few decades.
Destruction or forced closure of churches, and other church buildings has increased considerably, and permits hold services, re-open old or build new churches now meet with interminable difficulties and delays.
Physical attacks on buildings, worshippers, pastors and leaders, and the disruption of meetings have become more violent. Sadly where attacks take place the authorities often side with the Muslim majority, even when they are guilty of the violence, and instead arrest the Christians.
Discrimination over employment has increased, and in Muslim majority areas there is pressure put on Christian schoolchildren to convert to Islam.
Sharia law has been introduced into some communities, and there is a very vocal militant Islamic group trying to get parliament to make the whole country totally Islamic. There are also reports of large numbers of zealous Islamic families being moved into areas where numbers are low, in order to upset the present balance in favour of the Islamic cause.
It is hoped that the president and parliament will continue to stand up to these militant Islamists, and will maintain the freedom for religious minorities as the Constitution states.