Indonesia’s Christian leaders have urged the country’s president, Joko Widodo, to take action against a radical Islamist group.
This comes after a petition called for the disbandment of the group, which is accused of being responsible for a series of violent attacks against Christians.
The Christian leaders said the Islamic Defenders Front posed a “serious threat to national unity”.
The group was responsible for organising a series of mass rallies in Jakarta at the end of last year, in the wake of the blasphemy accusations that still surround Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known as “Ahok”), as he campaigns for re-election on 15 Feb.
“[His] case has attracted a lot of national and international attention and is seen as a test of religious freedom in the Muslim-majority nation,” says Thomas Muller, analyst at Open Doors, a global charity that supports Christians under pressure for their faith.
“Having mobilised more than 200,000 protestors from across the country, radical Islamic groups seem to be gaining ground. Societies are not radicalised all of a sudden; at first a creeping conservatism will be observed, which begins to limit and then suffocate all minorities. This is the case in Indonesia.”
Muller points to the recent evidence that violations of religious freedom are on the rise in Indonesia and a report by the New York Times focusing on how Sharia by-laws are spreading across the country. He says the province of Aceh is “proudly leading the way as a model for other regions in the implementation of such laws”. Some churches destroyed by extremists there in Oct. 2015 have not been allowed to be re-built.