The Gospel is making inroads, albeit slowly, in the southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, which is nearly 87% Muslim and the world’s largest Islamic-majority country.
According to U.S.-based International Christian Concern, the number of new Christians grew about 1% from the last census—a small but potentially significant development amid continued persecution by radicalized groups. Protestants number some 20 million among the nation’s 272 million people, and Roman Catholics comprise just over 8 million.
“Although predominantly Muslim Indonesia guarantees religious freedom, religious minorities like Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and Buddhists often face discrimination and persecution,” International Christian Concern said in a news release.
Islamic State (IS) affiliates are active in Indonesia, where a husband and wife, both IS loyalists, carried out a suicide bombing near a church just before Easter this year. Coordinated Easter attacks in 2018 in Indonesia killed 13 Christians.
According to groups that monitor persecution of Christians, the construction of churches is often stonewalled by opponents of Christianity, while more than 1,000 Christian churches have been forced into closure because of government discrimination, Human Rights Watch reports.
Additionally, blasphemy laws create problems for many Christian preachers. For example, Pastor Muhammad Kece was arrested Aug. 25 in Bali for alleged blasphemy against Islam. According to Human Rights Watch, authorities charged him with changing the word Allah in the Islamic oath to Jesus. If alleged blasphemy is posted online, it can result in up to six years in prison.
Despite persecution from Islamists and frequent discrimination in the legal system against Christians, the Gospel message still advances.
A missionary who works in Indonesia wrote in a blog post: “Some people put their faith in Christ after a dream or a vision leads them to open their minds to the possibility of salvation in Jesus, while others believe after hearing the Gospel for the first time from a Christian.
“The common denominator in every conversion is prayer, and that’s something Christians can do whether they are in Indonesia or in America.”