Millions Secretly Turn to Christ in Indonesia

Millions of Indonesians are becoming Christians, often secretly, but authorities refuse to recognize this trend in the world’s largest Muslim nation, several evangelical leaders have told BosNewsLife, a news partner of ASSIST News Service (ANS). At least three to four million Christians “turned to Christ” over the past year, according to Christian officials with very close knowledge about the situation.

All spoke on condition of anonymity as the issue of conversion remains highly sensitive in Indonesia, where dozens of people have been jailed or even killed on accusations of “blasphemy” against Islam. “Even if you see someone dressed as a Muslim, he or she may have become a Christian,” a seasoned evangelist said.

In Jakarta, the capital, at least 40-50 percent of residents may be ‘Christian,’ according to church group estimates. It remains unclear how many of them are ‘born-again,’ a move that involves accepting Jesus Christ as “personal Lord and Savior.” Being “born again” is seen by many pastors here as the essence of Christianity.

Muslims account for roughly 87 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million people, said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but the agency cited government estimates from 2010. Also, it has now emerged that the number of Christians including Protestants (7 percent) and Catholics (2.9 percent) have been steadily growing. “We expect half of Indonesians to be ‘Christian,’ at least in name, within five to 10 years”, a senior church leader and evangelist told BosNewsLife. That could mean some 130 million Indonesians identifying themselves as ‘Christian’ by 2028.

“There is a revival in Indonesia,” added the evangelist who has traveled through the most remote areas of Indonesia. Some “accepted Jesus Christ” as Lord because they saw or experienced miraculous healings during evangelistic outreaches, BosNewsLife learned in interviews.

FORMER MUSLIMS

Christians, including former Muslims, also cite disappointment about Islam’s strict regulations and perceived lack of freedom as reasons to convert. However, opposition to Christianity encouraged by a growing number of Islamic militants and hardliners in Indonesia contributed to religious tensions, even within government institutions.

Last year, the Christian governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy in a case that critics claimed undermined Indonesia’s reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam. Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has appealed the guilty verdict and sentence, after the five-judge panel, said he was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.”

The governor argued that people were being deceived if they believed the Koran forbids Muslims from voting for non-Muslims. He also came under fire for often citing the Bible and his Christian faith in speeches, Christians said.

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Source: Assist News