Jakarta Indonesia, May 15, 2017 – In the world’s most populous Muslim nation, Jakarta’s Christian governor has been sentenced to two years in prison for “blasphemy.” Human rights advocates see this as a major setback for religious freedom and fear that hardline Islamists are taking control of the nation.
During his brief tenure as governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian who is popularly known as “Ahok,” sought to quell radical groups and soothe investors’ concerns that the country’s secular values were at risk.
After his election, tens of thousands of Islamists held violent protests in the nation’s capital calling for Ahok to be imprisoned, threatening that if he was not found guilty of blasphemy they would stage a revolution and overthrow the national government.
Mr Purnama was accused of blasphemy for comments he made during a pre-election speech in September 2016. He implied that Islamic leaders were trying to trick voters by using a verse in the Koran to argue that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim leader.
The Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the implementation of Islamic law around the world, said in a statement that Governor Ahok should be beheaded.
The United Nations’ Bangkok Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a tweet said: “We are concerned by jail sentence for Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy against Islam. We call on Indonesia to review blasphemy law.”
Ahok was taken to an overcrowded East Jakarta prison after the verdict. Many fear that he will be killed in prison.
Indonesia has a large Chinese Christian population but has been under threat in recent years as radical Islam continues to grow in Indonesia.
Please, pray for Governor Purnama, pray for Indonesia, and pray for all Christians living in Muslim countries.