The reports about Andrew Brunson’s release are just another example of how little the media know about evangelical churches.
Three churches have been banned for religious activities and another one was attacked in the last month. Banners against Christian candidate Basuki Tjahaja "Ahok" were rife all over Jakarta.
Intolerance against Christians has increased considerably in Indonesia, specially since Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama "Ahok" stepped into the role from the deputy post without election in 2014, when his predecessor, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo became President of the country.
Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, is currently on trial on blasphemy charges, after he commented about a Quranic verse, in a speech he gave in the Thousand Islands regency in September 2016.
AHOK WON ELECTIONS FIRST ROUND
Basuki repeatedly denied the charges, and despite the pressure, he decided to keep running for the re-election in Indonesia's most populated region.
The Christian politician won the first round with 43% of the votes, followed closely by Islamic conservative former Education and Culture Minister, Anies Baswedan, who has the 40% of the votes.
There will be a second round on April 19, because no candidate secured 50% of the votes in the first-round election on February 15.
“A MUSLIM GOVERNOR FOR JAKARTA”
Banners with provocative anti-Ahok messages are still rife in the Indonesian capital.
The banners read: "KJS and KJP are funded by the city. Whoever is elected as governor, KJS and KJP will stay. Let's march to victory! A Muslim governor for Jakarta." KJS is the city-funded health insurance program, known for its Jakarta Health Card. KJP refers to the city's education fund, known for its Jakarta Smart Card.
Current Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat called on Ahok's political opponents to stop playing the religion card ahead of the run-off election. "These things have got to stop. You can't exploit religion to get into power", Djarot told reporters.
Authorities in Jakarta have already removed 526 provocative banners from all corners of the capital. One of them had read "Muslims who vote for an infidel or a blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer."
Acting Jakarta Governor Soni Sumarsono said “Jakarta administration will make efforts to take these banners down because they are provocative and contain sensitive religious and ethnicity issues.”
“These banners were placed in inappropriate areas. It is for the sake of public order and peace, ahead of the gubernatorial election run off", Sumarsono added.
THREE CHURCHES BANNED FOR RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES
But the Christian candidate is not the only coming under pressure of Islamic radicals.
Indonesian authorities in Bogor, West Java, have banned three churches from holding religious activities.
According to UCANews, the Methodist Church Indonesia, Huria Batak Protestant Church and a house used by Catholics for catechism classes were ordered to close their doors. Local authorities argued they could not guarantee the safety of the communities.
The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, has reported that West Java has the highest incidence of religious intolerance, with 41 cases reported last year.
YEARS OF DISCRIMINATION
Reverend Abdi Saragih of the Methodist Church in Bogor, confirmed that over the years his church has been facing intimidation from government as well as radical Muslim groups.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) called the government to “revise the law on the establishment of worship places without any discrimination among the various religions and beliefs that exist in Indonesia”.
Meanwhile, after having been closed down for seven years, another church in Bogor was told that it could reopen its doors if it also allowed a mosque on its premises.
Over the years the GKY Church held meetings in different places but resorted recently to holding open-air services outside the Presidential palace in Jakarta.
CATHOLIC CHURCH ATTACKED
According to the Associated Press, several hundred protesters from the group called Forum for Bekasi Muslim Friendship staged the demonstration to protest against the building of the Santa Clara Catholic church.
Eye witnesses told AP that the protesters had tried to force their way into the property and threw rocks and bottles at the building before police fired the tear gas in order to disperse them.
The church has been under construction since November. Demonstrators had already sealed off the church and demanded the permit be revoked.
KING SALMAN VISIT
The announcement coincided with the visit of King Salman, the Saudi Head of State, the first in 47 years, earlier this month.
The king was greeted by President Joko Widodo, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and the Indonesian Cabinet Secretary, Pramono Anung, who expressed his hope that Saudi Arabia would promote moderate Islam, especially since the Gulf Kingdom leads a Muslim-majority states’ alliance against Daesh.
DAESH IN INDONESIA
As Al-Jazeera reports, radicalisation in Indonesia remains limited, but the country’s authorities have grown concerned about Daesh's forays into the region after a January 2016 attack in Jakarta.
Days before King Salman’s arrival in the country, another Daesh-linked attacker belonging to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, a local terror group, set off a small bomb in Bandung.
In this context, anti-Wahhabi moderate Sunni Islamic Indonesian groups have long complained about Saudi-financed efforts in Indonesia to spread Salafi-Wahhabi, thought as a source of the country’s increasingly perceptible rise in hardline Islam.