Indonesia (MNN) — A failed suicide bombing on Sunday highlighted growing ISIS activity, not in the Middle East, but in Indonesia.
An Islamic State member tried to detonate explosives in a Roman Catholic church during Sunday mass, but his backpack bomb fizzled. He then pulled an ax and slashed at the priest before being subdued. The priest sustained minor injuries.
Forgotten Missionaries International’s Bruce Allen says this Muslim-majority country is starting to see increasing flares of homegrown terrorism.
“The Indonesian government has really been trying to monitor Islamic State activity because they know some Indonesians have gone to fight with Islamic State in other countries, and they’re very leery about those people coming back onto home soil, so to speak, and bringing that militant ideology with them.”
Allen was recently in Indonesia over the summer, and says even during their trip, they heard rumblings of militant Islamic presence.
“There was a suicide attack breaching a police station near the center where we were having an ongoing training conference for church planters. Even from that time to this weekend’s attack, there have been other attacks against churches. Police are ramping up security patrols around churches even in the middle of the night, and it’s a disturbing, increasing frequency there in Indonesia.”
We don’t often hear these types of occurrences in countries like Indonesia because, for the most part, Indonesia is a calmer and more stable country than others with an ISIS presence.
“There are some guiding principles in Indonesia. The government has tried to shape a culture that is very tolerant, even though it is predominantly a Muslim culture. But they constitutionally protect the rights of select religious minorities, Christianity being one of them,” says Allen.
“But what our church-planting partners in Indonesia are seeing is an increase in local militancy, that even though Christians are constitutionally protected, a church’s neighbors or a Christian family’s neighbors may not care about that, so there still will be persecution.”
Instances of persecution can be anything from church vandalism to more hostile intimidation tactics, like the report we gave earlier this month of a meeting of Indonesian believers that was interrupted and threatened by Muslim extremists.
With over 6,000 inhabited islands in a spread-out country like Indonesia, it can be difficult for the government to keep track of oppression taking place at the local level.
“Between what the constitution says and what actually happens on various islands, it can be a world of difference.”
Christians only make-up seven percent of the Indonesian population. While the Gospel is spreading, it can be difficult to get the momentum of a church plant going with community hostilities and lack of funds.
That’s why Forgotten Missionaries International works with church planters in Indonesia to support their ministry and to encourage making disciples. Many of these church planters graduate from seminaries, and from there, the work begins.
“Those graduates say, ‘We have a heart to plant churches across our country. We have the education. We just need the prayer support, the financial support of our brothers and sisters around the world because we’re not getting that type of support locally, because we are such a minority within our population.’”
FMI supports the pastors and their families as they get a church plant going, and many indigenous congregations in Indonesia have thrived through this support from the worldwide Church and the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Allen invites you to get involved! Pray for the strength and encouragement of Indonesian church planters. You can also actually be an encouragement by writing a letter to them!
“If people would like to send words of encouragement to their brothers and sisters overseas, they can do that by going to the FMI website, forgottenmissionaries.org, and in the contact tab sending us an email. We’ll forward that to folks overseas to encourage them, to let them know they’re not alone.”