Christian Governor Sentenced to Prison

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By Beth Ross | 16 May 2017

On 9 May Christian governor Purnama (popularly known as ‘Ahok’) was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.

Largest Muslim Population

Indonesia has the worlds’ largest Muslim population. Ahok was Jakarta’s first Christian and ethnic Chinese governor since the 1960’s. The nation has been known for its tolerance and religious diversity. But Ahok’s court case indicates things are beginning to change.

During his campaign for re-election, Ahok commented that he believed his opponents were using verses from the Quran to discourage people from wanting a non-Muslim in power. However his comments were taken as an insult to Islam.

“Mr Purnama was found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy,” the judge told the court. “And because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment.”

Politicians, activists and academics all over the world have begun to speak out about their concerns for the county and its increase in religious intolerance. Indonesia also saw some of the largest protests in its history because of the allegations against Ahok. Reportedly, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets demanding his arrest.

Video: Channel 4 News 

Ahok was on his way to a high-security prison in East Jakarta, notoriously home to many Islamic extremists. But his supporters blocked traffic and he was taken to a compound in Depok outside the city instead. He was visited by his sister Indra, and his mother.

“We met him in prison with our Muslim siblings, we hugged, we cried. The whole thing happened so fast.” Indra said. He does not have a phone or a television in the police facility, and Indra said the only book he took with him was a Bible. "He loves reading his Bible. He has it with him and he can pray whenever he wants," she said.

Ahok is going to appeal his sentence.

Persecution may be on the increase for Christians in Indonesia. Open Doors is working in Indonesia to strengthen and prepare Christians for persecution. Through education programs and lectures in Bible colleges and churches, many are learning what to expect when they are persecuted for their own faith.

Image: Reuters / Darren Whiteside

Sources: World Watch Monitor | Reuters | Video