A Federal judge has blocked the United States government from deporting a group of Indonesian Christians who say that they are at risk of suffering religious persecution should they be forced to return to their homeland, giving these individuals time to take legal action that may enable them to remain in the United States.
However, this move has left many people wondering if Indonesian Christians are really in danger or are simply attempting to remain in the country of their choice. Following is an overview of these Christians’ cases as well as a look at the state of religious freedom in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.
Many of the Indonesian Christians fighting to remain in the United States are of Chinese origin. They face persecution in their home country, not only because of their religious beliefs, but also their ethnic background.
These individuals migrated to the United States in the late 1990s, often using tourist visas to enter the country and then remaining on without filing the proper paperwork. In 2012, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen negotiated a deal with ICE that enabled the migrants to stay in the country as long as they checked in with ICE on a regular basis.
However, in late 2017 amid President Trump’s crackdown on illegals, many of these individuals were told to purchase a one way ticket and leave the country in the next couple of months.
The move struck terror into the hearts of the undocumented Indonesian community, as did ICE’s arrest of two undocumented Indonesian migrants as they dropped their children off at school. Several individuals took refuge in a local church that supports undocumented migrants. Others took legal action, claiming that their lives would be in danger if they were to return to their home country.
At present, the Indonesians are set to receive paperwork from their prior immigration proceedings, after which they have 90 days to ask the government to re-open their case. The matter will be decided on by the Board of Immigration Appeals; however, the Indonesians can seek a stay in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals if the Board of Immigration Appeals rules against them.
The Christian Indonesian community does have much to fear if for any reason their efforts fail and they are repatriated to their home country. While Indonesia offers far more freedom of speech and religion than other Muslim nations in Asia and Africa, it is currently ranked by Open Doors USA as one of the top 40 most oppressive countries in the world.
There are a number of powerful conservative Muslim political parties and pressure groups that are using their considerable influence to push laws and policies inspired by Islamic Sharia law. The fact that Jakarta’s Christian mayor was removed from office and sentences to two years behind bars under Indonesia’s blasphemy laws has alarmed the Christian community in Indonesia and abroad.
While most of the violence against Indonesian Christians occurs in rural areas rather than large cities, Christians throughout the country are subject to persecution and harassment. This is particularly pronounced in schools as Christian children are often mocked by their Muslim counterparts and their teachers.
Converts to Christianity face especially severe persecution. Many are held by their families in isolation for days or even weeks. Others are kicked out of their homes. Churches that attempt to witness to the Muslim community are often harassed and persecuted by radical Islamic groups.
Despite legislatures promising to take measures to give Indonesians more religious liberty, the overall state of religious freedom in the country has deteriorated rather than improved. In 2017, Open Doors ranked Indonesia as being the 46th most repressive country in the world; in 2018 the country jumped up to 38th place.
Given the fact that Christians face ongoing repression and persecution in Indonesia, it is not surprising that the Indonesian Christians in the United States are doing everything in their power to remain in this country. While the outcome of their case is uncertain, what is certain is that the Christian community in Indonesia needs as much prayer as possible. Open Doors is calling for prayer for courage, protection and spiritual strength for Christian children in Muslim communities as well as for recent converts to Christianity. It is also calling on Christians to pray for Muslims in the country, that they can come to know Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
~ Christian Patriot Daily