(Nov. 4, 2016) Around 150,000 hardline Muslim protesters rallied outside the Presidential palacein Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, today to demand the resignation of the governor of Jakarta, who they said had insulted the Koran.
Basuki Tjahja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, the Governor of Jakarta is a Christian. He was planning a re-election bid in February.
A member of Indonesia’s Christian minority and of Chinese heritage, Ahok is the first ethnic governor in the country. Christians make up one percent of the population.
He took the gubernatorial seat in Jakarta in 2014, which had been vacated with Joko Widodo's election as president. But hardline Muslims have opposed Ahok's rise to power.
The protesters, led by a group called the Islamic Defenders Front, demanded Governor Ahok be jailed for blasphemy. They waved placards and chanted "Hang Ahok" and "Allahu Akbar," according to missionaries of Bibles for Mideast in Indonesia.
Although the rally had been mostly peaceful, violence erupted as police clashed with protesters who disobeyed instructions to disperse after nightfall. Police used tear gas and water cannons in attempts to control angry demonstrators. One man died, while four civilians and three police officers were injured as a result of the clash.
Police officialscalculateit is the second biggest protest against Ahok in less than a month. In October, another protest against him gathered at City Hall.
About 18,000 soldiers and police, some equipped with rifles, were on patrol and secured shopping malls in Jakarta during the procession.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim-populated country in the world (India being second and Pakistan third).
"Ahok is not Muslim, but he humiliated the Koran," protesters said.
Many of the protesters wore white robes and Muslim caps and gathered at the central Istiqlal Mosque, the biggest mosque in the country, before they began moving toward the presidential palace.
There were smaller protests against Ahok in other cities, including Surabaya, Makassar and Medan.
The governor has built a reputation of being a tough reformer who is determined to clean up Jakarta’s streets and battle corruption in government. These traits have made him widely popular and have given him an edge on next year’s election. However, Islamic hardliners oppose him and do not want him to hold a government position because of his faith in Jesus Christ. He will compete for re-election against two Muslims, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and a former education minister, Anies Baswedan.
Ethnic Chinese make up just over one percent of Indonesia's 250 million people, and they typically do not enter politics.
Indonesia suffered a series of Islamist attacks early in the last decade. In the most serious incident, 202 people were killed in bombings of a nightclub on the island of Bali in 2002.
An attack in Jakarta early this year by supporters of Islamic State raised fears of a new wave of violent militancy.
Pray for Governor Ahok and his family, as well as all Christians in Indonesia. Pray also for the ministries of Bibles for Mideast, its missionaries and the many new believers.