Recently, a new association of Christian broadcasters started up in Indonesia. To celebrate its birth, Christian communicators from across Indonesia and the Asia Pacific region gathered to discuss the value and importance of this organisation to provide greater strength and effectiveness in proclaiming the Gospel in the largest Muslim country in the world.
Indonesia has almost 240 million people, and is composed of about 17,000 islands, only 6,000 of which are inhabited. It has very diverse cultures, ranging from the major metropolitan cities like Jakarta, to small tribal villages. While it is predominantly Muslim in its religious make-up, Hindu and animist are prevalent. The Christian population is estimated to be between 15-20%, writes Michael Ireland.
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson points out that even if those figures are a little high, it represents around 40 million Christians in Indonesia. This is double the total population of Australian.
The Christian population in Indonesia is made up of many ethnic Chinese and indigenous peoples, many of whom have been Christians for generations, since the Dutch colonisation prior to WWII. Many more have been converted as followers of Christ through evangelism.
Indonesian politics is complex and fraught with many contentious issues, one of which is the problem of militant Muslims who have shown their rigorous intent to destruction and death on numerous occasions such as the well known mass bombings in Bali and Jakarta; but also in previous incidents of burning Christian churches and generally vilifying groups of Christians and other minority groups within communities all over the archipelago.
The Resort Island of Bali, for example, is largely Hindu, however a growing Muslim presence has created tensions within that community, regardless of any national or international political concerns.
The Government claims to restrain this militant section of their community. And, realistically, Mark Tronson notes that the vast majority of Muslims in the general population in Indonesia are more moderate than some of their Middle Eastern counterparts, and are mild-mannered and law abiding.
No legitimate political party in Indonesia contesting the ballot box can afford to disenfranchise 40 million of their own people. In addition, many of the Christians (commonly those of Chinese descent) run major business, corporate and international links and it is at this point, issues within the Indonesian hierarchy get a little messy.
Where nationalistic issues come to the fore, the middle of the road Muslim majority tend to pacify the more radical, and from private reports, the ethic Chinese Indonesian business community leaders 'pull their head in'.
Indonesian politics is indeed a tricky business. Following Christ, can also be a very tricky business, and you put the two together, and there you have a need for unceasing prayer.
Claim: 15-20% of Indonesia's population is Christian
Published 21 May 2010 | Mark Tronson