OVERVIEW: Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with a total of more than 220 million Muslims, or about 13 percent of the world’s Muslim population. While most Indonesian Muslims practice an animistic version known as “folk” Islam, proponents of radical Islamic ideology have encouraged and engaged in violence against Christians. This strategy has led many Muslims to question their faith and to be more open to the gospel. Bold evangelists are taking advantage of this opportunity to share the gospel, leading many Muslims to faith in Christ.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: 82 percent of Indonesians are Sunni Muslims, 13 percent are Christians, including 3 percent evangelicals.
PERSECUTOR: The main persecutors in Indonesia are extremist groups and hardline Muslims, who in turn influence moderate Muslims. While the government does not persecute Christians, neither does it consistently defend their rights.
WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN INDONESIA: Even though it is illegal to proselytize, it is legal, though difficult, for Muslims and others to convert to Christianity in Indonesia, and there is more openness to the gospel than in other Muslim countries in Southeast Asia because Indonesians value harmony. Christians living in cities can worship openly. In rural areas, churches that actively share their faith face persecution from Muslims, local governments and the community. In some areas, small house churches of about 12 people are generally tolerated and allowed to meet openly. Muslims pay a price for converting to Christianity, and even in cities most Christian converts from Islam choose to attend churches outside their community. Those who openly share their faith face pressure from family members because their conversion to Christianity affects the family’s social standing. Muslim families often disown children who come to Christ, sometimes even conducting symbolic “funerals” for them. Foreigners who openly evangelize Muslims are required to leave the country. One Indonesian province, Aceh, has implemented Sharia, or Islamic law.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are available in every city, but not in rural locations. It is not illegal to own a Bible, and the Indonesia Bible Society prints Bibles inside the country. However, many live in remote areas where Bibles are unavailable, and others can’t afford to purchase one.
VOM WORK: VOM trains believers, assists with church planting efforts and provides a safe house for front-line workers under threat. VOM also distributes Bibles in the areas of greatest persecution, where there are often no other sources for Bibles or other Christian materials.