Islamic State-inspired terrorists attacked a shopping area early Thursday morning in the heavily populated Indonesian capital of Jakarta killing seven and injuring 19 others. Mimicking the Paris terror attacks, three bombers entered a local Starbucks coffee shop where they proceeded to detonate explosive devices. Elsewhere in Jakarta, two other terrorists attempted to storm a local police station with firearms where a gunfight ensued. All five terrorists were killed during the attacks while two civilians perished. The attacks provide further evidence that the Islamic State is a global threat whose influence has spread far beyond Iraq and Syria.
In terms of population, Indonesia boasts the largest Muslim-majority in the world, but does hold a significant Christian minority of reportedly 25 million. For the Christian population this comes at a difficult time as persecution across Indonesia has already increased.
According to the Indonesian government, hundreds of citizens have traveled to Syria to join and fight with the Islamic State, citing that at least 50 have been killed in combat. For Indonesia, the Jakarta attack is the first terror attack since the 2009 bombing of two hotels which resulted in the deaths of seven people and injuring 50.
In the past, Christians in Indonesia have suffered extreme forms of persecution, like those suffering under the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. From 1997-2003, the Islamic terror group Laskar Jihad terrorized Christian communities in Sulawesi. Men and women were forcefully converted to Islam, circumcised without anesthetics, given Muslim names, and separated from their families. Those who opposed these “conversions” were brutally murdered. Some 30,000 Christians are estimated to have died and nearly half a million were driven from their homes into refugee camps.
Since this tragedy, extreme cases of Christian persecution have for the most part been contained in Indonesia. Despite this, instances of Christian persecution continue to smolder. Dating back to 2009, two Indonesian churches were forcefully closed by local authorities receiving pressure from radical Muslim groups. Since then the GKI and HKBP churches have been conducting services outside the presidential palace in protest for its lack of adherence to a favorable Supreme Court ruling allowing the churches to re-open.
The Aceh region, located in northwest Indonesia, is the only region which has been granted authority to govern under Sharia law and has had over 1,000 churches closed since 2006 and 10 churches demolished over a span of two weeks in October of 2015 alone. As a result of the Aceh church burnings, over 8,000 Christians were forced to flee to neighboring provinces.
The Islamic State has continued to target religious minorities in the Middle East attempting to remove any vestige of religion that is not of radical Islamic origin. The increased threat of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia potentially places Christians and other religious minorities at further risk of a resurgence of persecution by Islamic radicals in Indonesia.
ICC Regional Manager William Stark stated, “The attack in Jakarta has increased fears among Indonesia’s Christian community that persecution, by or inspired by ISIS, is likely to increase as it has in the Middle East. Christians in Indonesia already face much persecution and intolerance, such as forced church closures, social hostility, and the destruction of their places of worship, simply because of their Christian faith. International Christian Concern (ICC) calls on the international community to do more to confront ISIS and its ideology before more needless violence occurs.”
Source: International Christian Concern (ICC)