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Indonesia is a vast archipelago of 17,500 islands and 250 million people standing between Asia and Australia. Its history goes back to a vast migration of peoples into the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar thousands of years ago. With the cultivation of rice in the rich tropical volcanic soils there soon developed many people and kingdoms, leading to Java becoming one of the most densely populated places on earth today. Large amounts of international trade between India, the Middle East and China meant many religions took root in what is now Indonesia. Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam each flourished in succession, and now it is Christianity’s turn.
The Europeans arrived in 1512 and this eventually led to occupation by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Japanese. Unilateral independence for the long-suffering Indonesians was finally declared in 1945 and this led to several decades of military government which included the killing of 500,000 accused Communists in 1965 after an attempted Communist takeover. A staggering 5% of the Balinese were executed in this reign of terror.
Indonesia has over 750 and distinct people groups and 722 languages. Most of these groups are the dominant Indo-Malays who, along with the Chinese who are 4% of the population, control the wealth and politics. Indonesia has now morphed into one of the world’s largest democracies and with that has come economic expansion at around 5% a year for the last decade. However, this growth in the economy and in population has led to large scale corruption and environmental damage to its forests.
Islam is the dominant religion and it gives itself preferential treatment in most spheres of public life. Intolerant Islamisation is pervasive and growing. Having said that, only about 1/3 of those counted as Muslims actively practice the faith and are adamantly opposed to any Christian existence in Indonesia. Some 500,000Maluku and Sulawesi Christians are now displaced because of their violence. Another third are nominal and another third follow Kejawan (a religion that combines animistic, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi, beliefs and practices) that predated the arrival of Islam. Many of these last two groups are open to Christian witness.
3. Evangelical Highlights
After the attempted Communist coup in 1965, the government demanded all citizens adhere to one of six official religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. This eventually resulted in over 2 million Muslims identifying as Christians for the first time! This windfall has now grown to many more millions as each generation enters their new faith at a deeper level. Forty million Indonesians now identify as Christian with some 15-20 million of these being evangelical. The church is strong, growing, prayerful and unified. Evangelism is vibrant, even to the Muslim community. This has resulted in somewhere between 5 and 10 million more Muslims becoming Christians in recent decades. This is by far the highest number of Muslim Background Believers (MBB’s) for any single Muslim majority country in the world…so far!
4. Prayer Points
A battle rages in the spiritual realm for the heart and soul of Indonesia. Radical Islam badly wants it, The occult is still thriving, yet Jesus is the true Lord of these people.
- For an end to nominalism in the denominations (Lutheran, Catholic) that have been Christian for hundreds of years.
- For the 128 people groups in the country lager than 10,000 that have hardly any Christian witness.
- For the vision of national church leaders to see a church in every village.
- For the thousands of Indonesian missionaries who serve outside their culture, but inside the country.
- For the large, wealthy and influential Chinese evangelical community to fully engage with the task of winning the lost.
- For the tribal peoples from many outlying islands that have been Christianised, that they would get a vision for missions into their neighbouring Muslim communities.
- For the uniquely Hindu Balinese, among whom there are few believers, but the numbers are growing.
- For Sumatra, 10% Christian but still the largest un-evangelised island in the world.
- For millions more souls to see the truth and to be set free.
- For Jesus to reveal himself to the millions who earnestly seek spiritual enlightenment while they fast during Ramadan.
- For the scriptures to find their way into millions more homes so the truth can be compared to the Qur’an