An estimated 150,000 people gathered outside the presidential palace on Saturday to call on Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok) to be jailed for blasphemy. Ahok is a Christian of Chinese descent and is the first Christian in nearly 50 years to govern the capital.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-country in the world. Only 10 per cent of Indonesians are Christians and Indonesian-Chinese constitute just 1 per cent of the population.
In an edited video, Ahok appeared to make comments where he criticised his political opponents for using the Quran to deceive voters. After the footage went viral, Ahok apologised and insisted his comments were not directed at the Quran but at those who used the holy text to attack him.
The outspoken governor is known for his straight-talking and tough stance on corruption. He has also attracted controversy for evicting thousands from slums in an effort to modernise Jakarta.
The rally was organised by the Islamic Defenders Front, a radical group responsible for violent demonstrations and attacks on minority groups. Some moderate Muslim groups have called for the Islamic Defenders Front to be banned. Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, urged its 40 million members not to attend the protests.
Indonesian police indicated anti-Chinese sentiment has increased in the lead up to the rally, igniting fears of a repeat of the 1998 riots, which riots led to the deaths of more than a thousand people. Many Indonesian-Chinese migrated to Australia to escape the violence.
The weekend rally was largely peaceful up until 6pm, when the permit for the demonstration expired. The police deployed tear gas after some of the protestors refused to disperse and demonstrators threw rocks and firecrackers at police. A number of protestors called for the governor to be hanged and some chanted ‘Kill Ahok’.
The chaos also spilled over into Penjaringan in North Jakarta, with reports of mass looting and burnt vehicles.
In total, one person died from asthma and an estimated 100 police officers and 250 protesters were injured.
President Joko Widodo was due to address the Australian parliament this week, but was forced to postpone his visit because of the violence.
Mr Widodo, widely regarded as an ally of Ahok, was the governor of Jakarta before he became president and blamed “political forces” for inciting the violence. The position of governor is up for re-election in February next year and it is seen as a springboard for a higher office at the national level.
The Uniting Church has close ties with the GKI and a significant number of Indonesians attend congregations in Melbourne. Many Indonesian-speaking congregations have young families, active youth groups and large international student communities.
Rev Dr Ji Zhang, UnitingWorld Manager Church Partnerships (Asia) has offered the following prayer, which is adapted from Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s Prayers for Life’s Particular Moments.
God who made the heavens and the earth.
There is no place where you cannot reach,
Tidak ada tempat tersembunyi dimana Engkau tidak bisa mencapainya
Ya Tuhan Pencipta langit dan bumi
There is no journey which you have not travelled,
God who is with us, Jesus the Christ.
Tidak ada suatu perjalanan dimana Engkau tidak bisa menjalaninya
Ya Tuhan yang selalu beserta dengan kita, Yesus Kristus
There are no people beyond your care,
God who is the Spirit, the Comforter.
Tidak ada manusia yang berada diluar kekuasaan kasih Mu
Ya Tuhan yang adalah Roh, Sang Penghibur
Stay with the people in Jakarta now, with your love and kindness;
Lighten their darkness with your consolation.
Tinggallah sekarang bersama dengan penduduk Jakarta dengan kasih dan kebaikan Mu ya Tuhan;
Terangilah kegelapan yang sedang melanda dengan terang kasihMu.
When their voices are mistakenly spoken and heard,
bring forgiveness and understanding.
When their dignity is endangered,
It is to God and friends in Christ that they have turned for pray and comfort.
Ketika kesalah pahaman terjadi
Berikan kami hati yang saling mengampuni dan penuh pengertian.
Ketika kemanusiaan yang beradab semakin menipis
Kepada Tuhan dan Kristus sebagai teman, kami berdoa dan mendapatkan penghiburan.
We pray for
eyes that are open to see what Jesus sees,
ears that are open to truly hear,
hearts that are open to love as Christ loved,
and lives that respond to our neighbour’s prayers
not being targeted.
Kami berdoa untuk
Mata kami supaya kami bisa melihat apa yang Yesus lihat
Telinga kami supaya kami bisa mendengar dengan benar,
Hati kami supaya kami bisa mencintai separti Kristus mencintai,
Dan hidup kami supaya kami bisa merespon doa doa tetangga kami supaya tidak menjadi sasaran.
Today, we pray for ourselves
and all those with power to pray and help,
the local and national governments in Indonesia,
the communities holding the tension together with Grace
our partner the Indonesian Christian Church.
Let them walk with the community together within God’s goodness,
May your peace sustain people’s life.
Hari ini kami berdoa buat kebutuhan kami dan untuk semua yang dapat berdoa dan berharap,
Buat pemerintahan tingkat national dan setempat di Indonesia,
Buat masyarakat dapat mengatasi perbedaan dengan anugerah
Buat mitra kami Gereja Kristen Indonesia
Semoga mereka berjalan bersama sama didalam kebaikan Tuhan
Semoga damai sejahtera Mu menyertai semua orang.
Hear our prayers this day
for we pray in the name of Jesus
whose arms were outstretched on the Cross
to embrace all people.
Dengarlah doa kami hari ini
Karena kami berdoa didalam nama Yesus
Yang tangan Nya terbuka diatas kayu salib
Untuk merangkul semua orang