Indonesia (MNN) — Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim-majority. Even so, it presents itself as a nation that embraces unity within diversity, even when it comes to religion. Yet, as votes are tallied up for the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, this sentiment is about to be challenged.
Election results aren’t expected until later this month, but polls have indicated the winner might be Jakarta’s current governor, Basuki Purnama. However, it’s likely that a run-off vote will be taken in April if any one candidate doesn’t win at least 50 percent of the votes.
Todd Nettleton of The Voice of the Martyrs USA explains why this vote isn’t only significant for Jakarta, but for the entire nation:
“This is the governor of Jakarta, which is one of the most visible positions in the entire country. In fact, the previous governor of Jakarta is now the president of the entire country.”
The potential for the governor of Indonesia’s capital city to become president is too great to ignore. Especially when you consider this is the first Christian and ethnic Chinese governor Jakarta has had in half a century, says BBC.
Purnama, also known as Ahok, stepped into the role when Joko Widodo took office as president in 2014 and has had mixed reviews.
Unity across religions?
There are six recognized religions in Indonesia, but Islam takes the majority at 87 percent of the population. Even so, they have embraced a state philosophy called Pancasila which includes as its third tenet the importance of unity.
And yet, VOM USA profiles the nation as being hostile to Christians. Nettleton explains why:
“The government offers religious freedom and typically we don’t see persecution coming from the government. We don’t see people being arrested for being a Christian or arrested for changing their faith. Where we do see persecution coming from is from radical Muslims within the culture.”
And, despite the Pancasila, some Muslims believe it is wrong to vote for a non-Muslim, meaning a non-Muslim would never have the opportunity to serve in an elected role in Indonesia.
At a campaign rally last year, Ahok addressed that fact and mentioned the Quran. Riots broke out across the nation and he was charged with blasphemy. So today, as he awaits the results of the election, Ahok is also on trial.
Al Jazeera says the blasphemy law, which was instituted in 1986, has often been used to target minorities (watch an interview with Al Jazeera and Ahok here). There is suspicion that the accusation in this case was politically motivated to ensure a Christian cannot become president.
On the flip side, Nettleton says, “If he is elected, I think it shows that the concept of Pancasila in the Indonesian language is working. That Indonesia, at least in the Jakarta area, the people really are functioning and living side-by-side.”
So, no matter how the court case or the election turns out, there are a few ways we can be praying for Indonesia.
Nettleton asks you to pray for a peaceful conclusion to the election process, and that the government will uphold religious freedom.
And he says, “People who are following Jesus need to be witnesses, they need to be sharing their faith, they need to be praying for their leaders, and we can pray that our brothers and sisters in Indonesia will kind of live up to those expectations.”