Bali Bombings Generate Fears, Concerns for Indonesian Christians

As persecutions against Christians in Indonesia by Islamic extremists persist, Christians throughout the predominantly Muslim nation are in fear of whether attacks such as the recent attacks in Bali would target them.

A wave of terrorist attacks near a tourist area in Bali, Indonesia over the past weekend has generated alarm in people throughout the world. As persecutions against Christians in Indonesia by Islamic extremists persist, Christians throughout the predominantly Muslim nation are in fear of whether such violence would target them.

Last Saturday evening, three near-simultaneous bomb attacks blasted three crowded restaurants in Bali – two on Jimbaran beach and another in the nearby tourist area of Kuta. At least 22 people were killed and over 100 were injured, according to a report by the Associated Press on Thursday.

"It's hard to say if these bombings will have a direct effect on the Church other than just creating a spirit of fear, of 'look what we can do to our enemies,'" Voice of the Martyrs Spokesman Todd Nettleton told Mission News Network (MNN) on Oct. 4.

In speaking of the recent increase in anti-Christian movements, Nettleton made mention of the forcible closures of several churches on the island of Java in recent weeks. In the past year, an accelerating trend of church closures in West Java under the threat of Islamic extremists has raised Christian concern both locally and internationally. According to a report released last month by U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the recent church closures in Indonesia share a common pattern and appear to be part of a wider scheme by militant hardliners.

Christian Freedom International (CFI), which went on a fact-finding trip to Indonesia in September, also released a recent report concerning forcible church closures.

In the report, the Virginia-base group revealed that an Islamic extremist group called the Anti-Apostasy Movement Alliance – one of the groups responsible for the recent violence against Christians – has operated with full cooperation from the local government in West Java. The report claimed that the government officials have been keeping silent, allowing the group to raid the churches.

VOM’s Nettleton also made note of three Sunday school teachers that were found guilty of “Christianization” last month by the Indonesian court.

The charges against the three women – Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti, and Ratna Bangun – stem from their involvement in a children’s program for a nearby public elementary school in Indonesia’s West Java province.

Although the program was organized for local Christian children, Muslim children were also welcomed with parental consent.

However, despite the fact that all the children had full parental consent and that none of children had changed religion, the women were arrested on May 13 following allegations made by the local chapter of the Indonesian Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI). According to CSW, the group alleged that the women enticed Muslim children to participate in the camp and that they tried to convert the children to Christianity by giving them gifts.

"There's just a lot of things going on that are a big concern," Nettleton stated.

In light of this and other incidents, the spokesman warned that the recent Bali blasts could affect believers to a certain extent, stating to MNN that "Christians would definitely fall under the 'enemies list' of a radical Islamic group in that country."

Despite raised security measures by the Indonesian police around the cities to prevent more terrorist attacks, the Christian minority remain very vulnerable.

VOM urges believers to pray that Islamic extremist groups will fail and that Indonesia will truly be free for those of all religions. The watchdog group also prays for Indonesian Christians that they will have freedom to share their faith without fear of intimidation, according to MNN.

With a 193 million-strong Muslim population, Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic country.

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