Easter threats against Christians reveal a grim trend in Indonesia

By April 29, 2011

Indonesia (MNN) — There has been
a marked increase in the
level of violence against Christians throughout Indonesia.

It's a trend revealed in the bold bombing attempt at Christ Cathedral Church. Bombs were found beneath a gas pipeline and
in bags near the church entrance. Police reports indicate the suspects planned to detonate the explosives
with a mobile phone on Good Friday, when the church would be at its fullest.  

Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says animosity toward Christians has been at a high level over the
last several years, but this is a new direction for the Muslim extremists. "These radical Islamic groups
seem to be targeting churches and targeting Christians. It seems to be a little
bit of a shift to targeting native Indonesians who are Christians as opposed to
targeting foreigners."

19 were arrested in connection
with the foiled plot. It's the mindset
that's more troubling, says Nettleton. "It does indicate that
there is some organization and that there is some effort being made to create disharmony, to create
the appearance that there's animosity towards the church."

Other recent attacks in February appeared to come from
disgruntled Muslim neighbors over believers meeting in homes. There, too, is an effort to stir up
trouble. VOM team members say that
militants were trucked into one area from as far away as 80 miles, just to
protest a church. The real culprits
behind the disruption are hard to find, because their message can be presented
without any local relevance. "They're
able to recruit troublemakers to come in from out of the area when they need an angry mob to march and
shout slogans. They're able to recruit people to join that mob."

Nettleton says they've also noted a corresponding
development that could be real trouble in the near future. "One of the things
we've seen over the last five years is a shift to of what I would call
‘government persecution.'"

While there is no official state
religion, Islam seems to be gaining strength politically, often at the expense
of religious minorities such as Christians. Christians say they are being marginalized in
society and increasingly persecuted.

Many house churches have been
closed. Government officials have been
more recently citing legal code and infractions as they close churches. It's unsettling because there's no recourse. "It's one thing when there are criminals and lawbreakers who make
trouble. It's another thing when it IS the law that's making trouble. That's
what we've seen sort of a shift to. Again, it's not everywhere in Indonesia,
but it has become more and more common in the stories that we're reporting persecution there." 

However, Nettleton says, "The good news is that the Gospel continues to
spread. Even in the stories about the potential bomb attack over Easter, many
of the comments from the Christians were ‘Church is where we want to be on
Easter, and if there's a risk, there's a risk.'"

That attitude is encouraging. VOM has been reaching out to
support the persecuted church in Indonesia for years, but in times when
oppression is coming from more than one direction, Nettleton says, "That spirit says the future of the church is
bright and strong. There is need for prayer though, and there's need for prayer
for protection for the Christians. There's also need for prayer for the Muslims, particularly I think for
government officials."

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