How many Christians are there in Indonesia?
There are 33.6 million Christians in Indonesia, comprising twelve per cent of the country’s population. There are more Muslims in Indonesia than any other country in the world.
How are Christians persecuted in Indonesia?
The persecution of Christians in Indonesia has worsened in recent years. There were three attacks on Christians within a six-month period between 2020 and 2021, killing eight believers, while Indonesian society has taken on a more conservative Islamic character, putting added pressure on Christians.
Churches that engage in evangelistic outreach are at risk of being targeted by Islamic extremist groups. There are certain hotspots, such as West Java or Aceh, where extremist groups are strong and exert a strong influence on society and politics.
In some regions, church groups face difficulties getting permission to build churches. Even if they manage to fulfil all legal requirements (including winning court cases), the local authorities still often ignore them.
Indonesia remains a patriarchal society, which leaves Christian women exposed to persecution for both their faith and gender. The most common threat facing female Christian converts is divorce. Additionally, Christian women are marginalised through enforced religious dress codes. In provinces like Aceh, women are required to wear a hijab, especially anyone holding government office. Those who fail to do so may face interrogation and be labelled as immoral women.
"One thing that I am so overwhelmed with is the love from my Christian friends. I feel like I have a new family, when my biological family abandoned me. I don’t feel alone in this new journey of my life." Wanda, an Indonesian Christian
What’s life like for Christians in Indonesia?
Many converts from Islam experience pressure from their families to return to Islam, although the intensity of the pressure varies according to the place and the individual’s family.
Wanda* dreamt of going to university. But her hopes were dashed when her mother’s business collapsed. As the oldest of three siblings, she took on the role of supporting her family by moving to Jakarta to find a job.
It was there that she started to doubt her Muslim faith. She began reading a Bible lent to her by a Christian she met in the café she worked at, and it led to her asking God which religion to follow. Jesus subsequently appeared in a dream, which led to Wanda becoming a Christian.
But her family greeted the news with hostility. Wanda had to leave the home she shared with her relatives. Thankfully, Open Doors local partners have been able to come alongside her to provide support.
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Indonesia?
Yes, the persecution of Christians in Indonesia has worsened considerably. It’s one of the biggest risers on the World Watch List, jumping 19 places from last year.
While pressure has increased in the national and church spheres, the main cause of this rise is an increase in violence.
After two years without bomb attacks, suicide bombers targeted a church in Makassar in March 2021; thankfully, no one was killed. However, eight Christians were killed in attacks in Central Sulawesi in November 2020 and May 2021. The terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) – which has links to so-called Islamic State – is responsible for the attacks.
How can I help Christians in Indonesia?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Indonesia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local church partners to support persecuted Christians in Indonesia by providing Bibles and Christian books, socio-economic support, discipleship training and relief aid.
Lord Jesus, because You suffered so much to save us, You are the best person to come alongside those suffering today. May all those still affected by the recent attacks on our brothers and sisters in Indonesia know the depths of Your comfort. Give Your children wisdom and boldness as they express and share their faith in a society that is pushing Christianity to the sidelines. Reveal Yourself to those who persecute Christians, and intervene to snuff out the influence of extremist groups. Amen.