A group of militant Islamists went on the rampage in Indonesia on 8 February demanding the death penalty for a Christian convicted of “blaspheming Islam”. The mob set two churches ablaze and damaged a third.
Antonius Richmond Bawengan (58) had been found guilty of distributing books and leaflets that allegedly “spread hatred about Islam” in Temanggung, Central Java, and was given the maximum sentence of five years in prison. Around 1,500 Muslims protested outside the courthouse, calling the sentence too lenient and demanding the death penalty. The crowd chanted “kill, kill” as they pelted the building with rocks.
The violence then spread to surrounding neighbourhoods, where the mob cried “burn, burn” as they targeted the churches. One minister, who saw his church go up in flames, was beaten up by the mob, and at least nine people were rushed to hospital with injuries. The protestors also threw rocks and other missiles at police, attacked a school building, and torched a number of vehicles.
The violence came two days after three members of a minority Islamic sect were beaten to death by a Muslim lynch mob, who considered them to be heretics. Both these incidents took place as Indonesia started its “interfaith week”, when the country was meant to celebrate its religious diversity.
- Pray for those congregations who have recently lost their churches to arson. Pray that the Christians will still be able to meet together to worship the Lord Jesus.
- Pray for Christians in Indonesia, that they will stand firm in the face of persecution and that the government will provide better protection for the churches against violent attacks.