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Indonesia: Shock as Christian Governor sentenced to jail for blasphemy

09 May 2017

In a harsher than expected ruling, the Christian Governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam. The court ruling has fueled concerns over rising religious intolerance in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

The two year sentence on Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - popularly known as Ahok - comes as a surprise, since the prosecutors only recommended probation. Among his supporters outside the court there was shock and some wept openly. Islamic hardliners however, reportedly cheered and shouted "God is greatest!" when news came through that he was to be sent to prison.

Ahok, an ethnic-Chinese Christian was found guilty of 'desecrating' the Quran after saying in a speech that Islamic groups who were using a verse from the Quran to discourage support for him were deceiving voters during recent elections. The verse is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Islamic groups then accused him of criticising the Quran.

Ahok told the court he would appeal the ruling. One of his lawyers reported that he was taken to prison directly after the court ruling. It was unclear whether he would remain in jail or be released later to allow him to file his appeal.

Lost election

Although Ahok is currently still the Governor of Jakarta, he recently lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival in a divisive campaign. He is due to hand over in October.

Indonesia ranks as number 46 on the 2017 Open Doors World Watch List. It hosts the world's largest Muslim population, the majority of which practises moderate Islam. However, fundamentalism has been on the rise, causing Christians and other religious minorities to be more vulnerable to false accusations and injustice in law enforcement.

Source: Reuters; Channel NewsAsia; Open Doors

Please pray:

  • That Ahok keeps trusting on God, despite this setback.
  • For other Indonesian Christians who may be disheartened about this ruling.
  • For protection for the Christian minority in Indonesia.

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Find out more about persecution in Indonesia.