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Indonesia’s most popular Islamic preacher says Christian crosses are inhabited by evil spirits

This Saturday is the Feast of the Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross, and this story show much the Holy Cross is still a scandal to unbelievers.

Indonesia is “the biggest Muslim country on Earth – which was lauded up until recently for being a model of moderate Islam.” Now, however, “it is possible to say with impunity that Christians are the work of the devil.” This is the kind of language that leads to the demonization of the Christian community and ultimately to its persecution.

There is a small and courageous community of Orthodox Christians in Indonesia, numbering around 2500 people; Christians in general are a tiny minority in this massive nation, and they are more threatened now than ever before. Christians face increasing discrimination and persecution, and as this article notes, this persecution and discrimination is now being enabled by a popular preachers with a large following. Please beseech our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that this cynical grandstanding, which victimizes innocent people, would be decisively repudiated and ended in Indonesia.

“Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance, granting our rulers to prevail over adversaries, and protecting Your commonwealth by Your Cross.”

“Vicious trend sweeps Indonesia,” by Marco Stahlhut, Qantara.de, September 9, 2019:

A video featuring Ustadz Abdul Somad, probably Indonesia’s most popular Islamic preacher, has gone viral in the country. In the video, the cleric is asked by a female member of the audience why she always has to shudder every time she sees a Christian cross. He replies that the reason is that Christian crosses are inhabited by evil spirits. In other words: crosses are the work of the devil. Somad is a prominent member of Nahdlatul Ulama, the “more moderate” of the two “moderate” major Muslim organisations in Indonesia.

He was head of its regional branch in Riau for five years. Before being blocked for a period of time this year, his Instagram account had more followers than the social media pages of any other religious leader in the country. In defence of the video, which surfaced recently, Somad said that he was speaking in an Islamic establishment to an exclusively Muslim audience. Because no Christians were present, he argued, he could not have insulted any Christians. What’s more, he said, he had only been answering a question.

Indonesian Christians sought to bring blasphemy charges against Somad. Officially, the paragraph on blasphemy in Indonesian law protects all religions recognised by the state. Islamists reacted immediately with a countersuit: the very insinuation that the revered preacher could have committed blasphemy was an insult, they argued. In late August, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) discussed the case. It not only repeated almost word for word what Somad had said in his own defence, it also explicitly called on his critics to pipe down.

Worrying development

This decision by what is more or less the most senior religious body in Indonesia, not only shows without a shadow of a doubt just how far the fundamentalisation of the country had already advanced, it is also likely to have fatal consequences for the co-existence of religions in the state that is home to the largest Muslim population in the world….

But even before the Council’s ruling, the rise of intolerance in the country was plain for all to see. It is evident in the results of multiple surveys and most appallingly in the attack on three churches in Surabaya in May 2018, when two Muslim suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing at least 15 people in the process. But it is also evident in everyday intolerance….

And now, in the biggest Muslim country on Earth – which was lauded up until recently for being a model of moderate Islam – it is possible to say with impunity that Christians are the work of the devil….

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