Jakarta: (Voice of the Persecuted) In a nation where radicalism is on the rise, Indonesian Christians told Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) that many fear potential violence during a mass demonstration planned by hardliners on Friday (Nov. 4).
The rally is being held against Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, who has been accused of commiting blasphemy.
The blasphemy accusation came after Ahok spoke in front of citizens of the Thousand Islands (Kepulauan Seribu) in September. The Governor had criticized his opponents for referencing a verse in the Koran that warns against allying with Christians and Jews. Ahok suggested those who used the passage against him were “lying” to them.
Many Muslims became angered when a supporter of his opponent shared a heavily edited 30 second video that cut out of context of Ahok’s speech. Hardliners interpreted his comments as criticism of the Islamic holy text and reported him to authorities for blasphemy. An investigation took place and he was cleared of the charge. To calm the situation, he (Ahok) later apologized to those who felt offended, which was clearly not his intention.
Muhyiddin Junaidi, head of International Affairs at MUI, said that it was good Ahok got law enforcement involved and said, “if we were in Pakistan or India, he (Ahok) would have been killed.”
It’s believed the video was used in an attempt to frame the Christian governor as anti-Muslim. However, in the uncut original video, the context of Ahok’s words completely changed, as he said that some people irresponsibly use the Quran to trick others into not voting for him.
Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama is the second Christian governor of Jakarta in 51 years, following Henk Ngantung, who was governor during the period 1964–65.
Indonesian Christians shared with VOP,
“Many Muslims don’t like him because he is a Christian.”
“They are using the false accusation of blasphemy to stir up hatred prior to the coming election, which Ahok is favored to win.”
“The radical people really want our governor punished or dead.”
“Radical Muslims may be ready to kill or die on [Friday] that day.”
“We are very uneasy.”
“Please pray for condition in Jakarta.”
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has instructed authorities to be on the alert during the rally, which according to police officials, thousands are expected to attend. the rally Police predict the rally will be exceptionally larger than the one held on Oct. 10 where 5,000 people gathered. But violence many had feared was avoided during the Oct. protest.
President Jokowi said that demonstration is a democratic right of citizens, but they do not have the right to impose their will or create damages. He also said the government would guarantee the right to free speech, but it would also give priority to public order and security. “I have ordered the security forces to stay alert and perform their duties in a professional manner to overcome any anarchy perpetrated by any one,” the president remarked. Reportedly, Widodo also met with Islamic group leaders in an attempt to calm things down ahead of the Friday’s rally.
National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian urged the people not to be easily provoked with regard to the Islamic mass organizations planned demonstration. He warned the rally could be exploited by certain elements for political purposes ahead of the Jakarta gubernatorial election next February.
“Do not be easily provoked or involve in violence. Please do not be anarchic,” he said.
Jakarta Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Suntana said personnel will be deployed to safeguard the Friday rally which was organized by several Muslim groups, including the hard-line group Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI. Security will be increased in several spots that are prone to conflict and clash.” He too called on protesters to act appropriately and peacefully during the rally, particularly as the official campaign period for next year’s gubernatorial election, in which Basuki ‘Ahok’ is seeking a second term, has begun.
Said Aqil Siroj, chairman of the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, suspected the rally would be infiltrated by other interest groups, separate to blasphemy concerns or other city election issues.
“I am afraid the target of the rally is not the election, but something much larger that that. Something like in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Said said, referencing social unrest in the Middle East.
VOP was also told, “Even liberal Muslims believe ISIS or a terrorist group is behind Friday’s demonstration.”
Terrorism expert, Sidney Jones said terrorists may take advantage of Friday’s protest rally by hardline Muslims to further spread radicalism and launch attacks on security officers, Jakarta Globe reported.
A Telegram chat group managed by groups supporting the Islamic State in Indonesia — which were blamed for several terror attacks earlier this year — was recently revealed to contain messages urging sympathizers to take advantage of Friday’s rally, Jones said.
“There was a call or an order to their followers to create chaos and spread the message of jihad across the country,” Jones told reporters.
“They wanted people to follow the example of the young man who attacked police in Tangerang two weeks ago. They believe a knife attack is an effective way to spread terror,” Jones said.
A man stabbed three officers with a knife during an attack on a police station in Tangerang late last month. The man was reportedly inspired by Islamic State.
The attack left three officers injured, while the attacker died from multiple gunshot wounds.
“Follow the example of the brave young man. Take advantage of the presence of thousands of police officers to do the same on Friday,” the messages said according to Jones. (see full report here)
VOP Founder, Lois Kanalos is encouraging urgent prayer for Friday’s protest to remain peaceful. The ministry is also asking Christians to remember and pray for Indonesian Christians who are facing increased aggression against them.