Christianity grows by nearly 1% in Muslim-majority Indonesia

Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday.
Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday. | JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images

The latest data released by the government of Indonesia suggest that the number of Christians in the Muslim-majority archipelago has slightly increased, a U.S.-based group has noted.

The Southeast Asian country, which is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, now has 20.4 million Protestants and 8.42 million Catholics, who together comprise 10.58% of the total population of 272.23 million, according to data from the Directorate General of the Department of Population and Civil Registration (Dukcapil) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, International Christian Concern said, adding that the 2010 census data showed that 9.87% of the population was Christian.

Among Indonesia's population, 236.53 million (86.88%) identify as Muslim.  

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Geographically, there are 30 Muslim-majority provinces. Only in four provinces is Islam a minority religion or below 50%, including West Papua.

Indonesia’s Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all. However, there are many extremist groups in Indonesia that oppose Pancasila.

Churches often face opposition from groups that attempt to obstruct the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship. Human Rights Watch previously said that more than 1,000 churches in the archipelago had been closed due to pressure from such groups.

Indonesia is ranked No. 47 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most extreme levels of persecution.

The Christian minority in Indonesia attended this year’s Easter service under heavy security following a suicide bombing outside a church carried out by a married couple affiliated with a homegrown terror network that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Two days before Good Friday, police had shot dead a 25-year-old woman, identified as Zakiah Aini, who pointed a gun at police officers at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta and fired at least six shots, Jakarta Globe reported at the time, adding that Zakiah was a university dropout who supported ISIS.

On Palm Sunday, a 26-year-old man, identified as Muh Lukman, and his wife, Yogi Sahfitri Fortuna, a.k.a. Dewi, blew themselves up in front of the gate of the Cathedral Church in the city of Makassar in South Sulawesi province at about 10:30 a.m. as the church was preparing for its third service.

Police have said many of the suspects and the two suicide bombers had been part of a homegrown terror group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, or JAD, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS.

The JAD, Indonesia’s most active terror cell for the last two years, was also behind coordinated attacks on three churches — Immaculate Saint Mary Catholic Church, Indonesia Christian Church and Surabaya Central Pentecost Church — in Surabaya on May 13, 2018, which killed at least 13 people.

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