Saturday, February 24   Sign in or Register
Evangelical Focus

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud

Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.

Is the sexual exploitation of women an issue in your city?



Joel Forster

Ahok, blasphemy and religious freedom

Freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and religious freedom are battles that are worth fighting. 

NEWS DESK AUTHOR Joel Forster 09 MAY 2017 18:52 h GMT+1
The outgoing Governor of Jakarta, Ahok, after hearing the sentence, on 9 May. / Kompass Indonesia

Indonesia, the country with the highest number of Muslims in the world (220 million and 87% of the population), has witnessed how the outgoing Governor of its capital city Jakarta has been sentenced to two years of prison for blasphemy.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as ‘Ahok’) is an outspoken Christian a ‘rara avis’ in Indonesia, the first non-Muslim politician with such a public presence in decades. Respected for his fight against corruption, an evangelical believer in Indonesia recently said of him that “he believes in Jesus Christ, reads and studies his Bible every day and finds it to be his source of strength.”

The democratic normality of ‘Ahok’ in a key country of Southeast Asia was presented as an example of tolerance: Indonesia's motto is “Faith in the one and unique God” but its constitution guarantees religious freedom for five other religions apart from Islam.

Nonetheless, the radicalisation of Islam in the whole region and a local political election has called into question this perception. A video recorded in 2016 showing ‘Ahok’ quoting a verse of the Quran and allegedly blaspheming Islam, was spread on the internet and became viral. Ironically, on the recording he was saying that the holy book of Islam is tolerant and allows Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim leader.

In a short time, radical groups like the Islamic Defenders Front organised themselves to hinder Purnama’s options to win the coming election. Tens of thousands of men with signs reading “Muslims who vote for an infidel or a blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer” and chants like “Kill ‘Ahok’ for insulting Islam” took the streets of Jakarta in several demonstrations. Doing so, they did not only put pressure on the Christian Governor, but also on his potential voters as well as Christians in general (9% of the population, mainly Protestants).

Meanwhile, churches were banned and attacked in other regions of the country.


Muslim protesters ask to jail Jakarta Governor 'Ahok, in Novemeber 2016. / Jakarta Post

The stigma of the judicial process opened against ‘Ahok’ did the rest. After winning the first round of the election February, the Christian politician lost to the Muslim candidate two months later, in the second round.

In the midst of the whole situation, Purnama appeared in front of their supporters with a smile on his face. “Trust me, power comes from God and it can be taken by God. No one comes to power without God’s permission. Don’t be sad. God knows”, he said.  

Three weeks later, the next blow to religious freedom in Indonesia. The judges condemned Ahok to two years of prison, a sentence harsher than what the prosecutors had requested. The Governor was immediately taken into custody and his deputy will govern the capital city until the end of the political term, in October.



The fight for the freedom of conscience and of speech is a top priority for Christians around the world. It has not only to do with defending one’s own rights, but those of others too.

The Italian evangelical Christians exemplified this necessity of defending the liberties of the neighbour when they denounced the “ideological sentence” through which Russia banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses two weeks ago.

“Religious freedom must therefore be guaranteed for everyone, even for those who reject the Gospel or who, in our view, are completely wrong in understanding and living it”, the Italian Evangelical Alliance said in a statement.

In other words, “our point is not to support the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (which we believe is contrary to the gospel and a deviation from God’s Word) but to defend the right of everyone to live freely according to their own convictions.”

The text goes further to say that any religion, ideology or political system which does not resist criticism is showing its own weakness.



The central person of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, was opposed by people throughout all his public life. After three years of communicating his challenging message, a plot organised by the religious elite tried to bring him down. He was put on trial for blasphemy, with fabricated charges (Matthew 26: 57-67).

Before dying on a Cross, he was insulted and tortured. He had claimed that He was the Messiah and the Son of God, but even so He did not impose his message by force. The one we Christians believe is the Lord of the Universe allowed others to disagree with Him.

Freedom of conscience, freedom of speech and religious freedom are battles that are worth fighting. Be it to defend the voice of Christians in Indonesia, be it to defend the freedoms of our neighbours, or our own liberties.




    If you want to comment, or


YOUR ARE AT: - - - Ahok, blasphemy and religious freedom
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

A marriage story A marriage story

The  great love story for everyone.

Be safe on social media Be safe on social media

A video about the way traffickers target teenage girls online, produced by anti-slavery gorup Abolishion.

In Mission In Mission

A 360º lyric video about how all followers of Jesus Christ are called to serve God. Duo in Spanish (Alex Sampedro) and Portuguese (Marcos Martins).

Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube

EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.