Tuesday, May 15, 2012

RLPB 159. ACEH, Indonesia: new governor advances Islamisation

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 159 | Wed 16 May 2012


By Elizabeth Kendal

Acehnese went to the polls on 9 April to elect a new governor. The incumbent, Irwandi Yusuf, running as an independent, had been favoured to win. However, in the end the people chose to put their loyalty behind the Aceh Party's candidate Zaini Abdullah (72). Founded in 2008, the Aceh Party (Partai Aceh, PA) has dominated the parliament since 2009. It is the political party of the now defunct separatist guerrilla Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM). Both Irwandi and Zaini have their origins in GAM. But in 2006, after GAM put Irwandi forward as its candidate for governor, GAM strongman Malik Mahmud overruled and put his own man forward, splitting the movement and forcing Irwandi to run (and win) as an independent. The political rivalry continues. All through 2011, the PA tried but failed to have Irwandi banned from the contest. Furthermore, the increasingly autocratic and militant PA has been blamed for the deadly political violence that has struck Irwandi's team and supporters. Moreover, the PA played the populist 'religion card', vowing to advance a more 'pure' form of Quranic Sharia (Islamic law).

On 17 April governor-elect Zaini Abdullah pledged to 'strengthen peace across Aceh' and 'eradicate corruption'. Claiming that 'moderate Islam' is what is 'in line with the Koran and Prophet Muhammad's hadiths' (i.e. is fundamentalist!), he pledged to raise awareness of right and wrong by means of Islamic education, so that Islam in Aceh 'can return to where it was during the Sultan Iskandar Muda era'. (Iskandar Muda was a cruel 17th Century Islamic autocrat who shed much blood in making Aceh strong, expansive and Islamic.)   

Aceh is around 98 percent Muslim and one percent Christian (mostly Protestant). At the southern-most tip of Aceh, Singkil district has the highest proportion of Christians of any district or city in Aceh, with Christians making up about one-sixth of the 120,000 population. Despite this, the administration has ruled that Singkil is only permitted to have one church and four 'undung-undungs' (small prayer rooms without exterior crosses).

On 30 April hundreds of Islamic hard-liners from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Aceh Singkil Muslim Forum held a rally in Singkil demanding the undung-undungs be closed. The administration subsequently shut down 17 Christian places of worship in four sub-districts of Singkil on the grounds that they were built without permits.

A spokesman for the group 'Pro-Democracy People', Agusta Mukhtar, denounced the administration for acquiescing to hard-liners and failing to promote religious tolerance. 'The religious peace here has been shattered,' he said, 'by this anarchistic action that seeks religious domination for an inflexible faith. This is a dark time in the history of religious freedom and tolerance in Aceh.' Everything indicates life is about to get even more difficult for Aceh's minority Christian community.
(source: Jakarta Globe)


* fill Acehnese Christians with full assurance of his presence. May the find their security, wisdom and strength in HIM in these darkening days.

* embolden Aceh's many secular, moderate and folk Muslims, awakening them to the fact that Quranic Islam brings cruel repression and culture change (Arabisation), not the utopia the Islamists promise.

* work all things for good, so that repression will be replaced with beauty and liberty; may Aceh know revival, for ' . . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom' (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).


Aceh, on the north-west tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is around 98 percent Muslim and one percent Christian (mostly Protestant). Acehnese went to the polls on 9 April to elect a new governor. The winner, Zaini Abdullah (72) of the dominant and increasingly autocratic and militant Aceh Party, ran on a platform that included a vow to advance a more 'pure' form of Quranic Sharia (Islamic law). On 30 April hundreds of Islamists protested in Aceh's southern-most district of Singkil, which has the highest proportion of Christians of any district in Aceh. The Islamists demanded the closure of Singkil's supposedly 'illegal' churches and prayer houses. The administration quickly acquiesced and 17 places of Christian worship across Singkil have since been closed. Please pray for Aceh's minority Christian community.