Project Prayer: Ramadan 2016 - Day 20

Gary Fallesen

Project Prayer: Ramadan 2016 - Day 20

Day 20: Entering rooms in the House of Islam —Indonesia

By Gary Fallesen, founding president, Climbing For Christ

Sunda women thresh rice in West Java. The Sunda are the 10th-largest unreached Muslim people group in the world, numbering more than 37 million. (Photo by Rendy Bayutrilaksono, Mission: Indonesia 2007)

Pastor Rebekka Zakaria and two lay assistants were imprisoned in 2005 for two years in West Java for teaching Sunday school, violating Indonesia’s 2002 Child Protection Act forbidding missionaries to preach to children. During Zakaria’s trial protesters outside the court carried an empty coffin, which they had built for her.

“We must not be afraid of this kind of persecution,” she told Eliza Griswold in the book The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam.

Griswold wrote, “Although Christians from the West had shown support by sending her fifteen thousand letters filled with bubblegum, bookmarks, and currency from America, the United Kingdom, and Israel, Zakaria did not believe that Western Christians really understood the cost of faith here along the edge of the Muslim world.

“Zakaria believed that Christianity and Islam were locked in a global contest for souls. Unlike Western Christians, she believed, who could afford to think about God only on Sundays, believers along the tenth parallel did not have the luxury of doubt, or of interpreting scripture as anything but the infallible word of God.

“The 10/40 Window was a battle map facing all frontline Christians, including herself. As she saw it, the fight playing out in her town was part of a global battle for this world and the next. Gains on her side, the Christian side, meant more people — more children — in heaven. She said, ‘We pray for the children, because they’re going to hell.’”

Indonesia is a country of nearly 256 million people. More than 8 in every 10 people follow Islam, making it the largest Muslim population in the world. Only 12.8 percent of the country is Christian, according to the Joshua Project.

But Indonesia is large and diverse with more than 6,000 inhabited islands spread across 2 million square kilometers in Southeastern Asia. The people speak 722 languages. “Indonesians describe their country as a multilayered cake, representing the different religions, cultures and races that have successfully settled their land,” David Garrison wrote in A Wind in the House of Islam.

Indonesia has welcomed Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity to its many shores through the centuries. Muslims from India delivered their religion to Hindu-ruled Java in the 13th century and Christians from Portugal followed by the Dutch arrived in the 16th century. Indonesia did not gain its independence until 1945 when the country’s first president, Sukarno, adopted a “Pancasila” rather than forming an Islamic state.

Pancasila consists of two Old Javanese words from Sanskrit: pañca, meaning “five,” and sīla for “principles.” The five principles were belief in one supreme God, humanitarianism, nationalism, democracy and social justice. “Indonesia’s motto became ‘Unity in Diversity,’” Griswold wrote in The Tenth Parallel, “and Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and initially Confucianism were all state-approved religions.”

Even today, the democratic government requires that all citizens follow one of six religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism or Protestantism. But there are limits to the religious freedom. Encouraging people to convert from Islam is against the law.

“A spiritual battle rages for Indonesia,” Patrick Johnstone wrote in Pray for the World. “Ancient occult powers oppose the Gospel, while the extremist Muslim groups seek to remove Christianity from society. Ask God to bind those powers. Islam in Indonesia has many forms. Some Muslims are devout in their faith. Some identify themselves as Muslim, but mix Islamic ways with traditional folk religions or even Hinduism. Others have a more secular view and lifestyle.”

There have been violent Muslim movements through the years, attacking Christians or anything “Western,” which is perceived to be synonymous with Christianity. But “God continues to bless the work of foreign missions in Indonesia, despite the obstacles,” Johnstone wrote.

“Islamists slowly gain influence, which causes religious freedom to decline. They persecute Christians and other religious minorities, even other moderate Muslim groups. The secular government and Muslim leaders need courage to stand against the Islamists. Pray that they would stop Islamist violence where they can. Whole towns and regions no longer have a Christian presence, and many have lost lives and property.”

Pray for the World states that more than 46,000 of the country’s 76,000 villages (60 percent) have no church. There are 125 unreached Muslim people groups accounting for more than 120 million souls, according to the Joshua Project.

Climbing For Christ has focused on engaging some of the largest (and most challenging) of these unreached people groups since 2007, when our first international chapter was established in Indonesia. But the years (and life’s distractions) have taken their toll on the C4C Indonesia membership; pray for renewed vigor and spiritual excitement here. Pray also for workers who can wisely approach a country strongly opposed to Kristianisasi (or Christianization).

A light shines in the darkness on Mount Rinjani. The Sasak people on the island of Lombok are 3.2 million Muslims. (Photo by Budi Yuwono, Mission: Indonesia 2015)

“Even moderates (following Islam) argue that in a Muslim country, freedom of religion cannot mean the right to preach to whomever you want,” Griswold wrote. “Proselytizing creates competition, and in Indonesia, that competition leads to violence.”

Christians are viewed as “guests” of Muslims in Indonesia, The Tenth Parallel suggests. “If a guest is polite to the host, the host is polite,” one opponent to Pastor Zakaria said. “If the guest is impolite, the host can be as rude as he chooses to be.”

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