Indonesia: The World’s Largest Muslim Nation
Once called the Spice Islands, Indonesia, the fourth largest nation in the world, is a nation in which it is impossible to make generalisations. Spanning the equator, it is an archipelago of over 13,500 islands divided into 27 provinces. The people of Indonesia represent hundreds of languages and cultures and religions. Traveling from one area of Indonesia to another one will experience a diverse range of foods, music, dance and sport. From lush rice fields to active volcanic slopes, from deserted beaches to crowded city streets, the complexity of Indonesia should never be underestimated.
Developments in Indonesia
Despite its long and ancient history, today’s Indonesia is a young nation having gained independence in 1948 from centuries of colonial rule. Recent economic development has brought profound changes to Indonesian society. The inflation rate currently hovers at around 10% and the 1997 Asian economic crisis has left many sectors of the country crippled. Each year 2 million people enter the workforce yet only 3% will find employment. Even if they do find work the income is usually not enough to live on. A civil servant earns a mere US$20 per month, a factory worker will earn US$40 per month, a rice farmer will earn .17 cents per day.
Recent laws in Indonesia, such as having to carry an identity card, and the legacy of the trans-migration scheme, have done little to unify this vast and diverse nation. Indeed, many believe that these laws have created ethnic tension in previously quiet regions.
Rapid urbanisation has meant that now an estimated 40% of the entire population live in massive cities particularly on the island of Java with Jakarta, Surabaya and Jogyakarta.
The Largest Muslim Nation
Today Indonesia is at a point of crisis. Recent leadership changes, scandals, student riots, ethnic murders and more, have created an unstable political scene. Indonesia is a difficult place to govern in the best of times with such huge cultural and ethnic diversity. Every major region of Indonesia has suffered. In March 2001 more than 500 Madurese were brutally massacred by Dayaks with more than 40,000 Madurese fleeing the area. Since 1975 independent Muslim movements in the province of Aceh have caused the deaths of at least 6,000 people. In the past two years clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Maluku Islands have left 500 dead and half a million people homeless.
As the largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia is one of the greatest challenges in the Muslim world today. There are literally thousands of villages and towns throughout Indonesia that are 100% Muslims with no Christian witness. Yet, throughout Indonesia, particularly in the cities, there are large churches and the Body of Christ is growing rapidly.
How to Pray
- Pray for those in leadership in Indonesia. For government officials, for police and military chiefs, for heads of tribes and households.
- Pray for those who have recently lost family members and homes, that God would bring comfort.
- Pray for those enduring economic hardship. Ask God to open doors for Christian workers to create employment opportunities.
- Ask that the Holy Spirit would bring conviction upon Muslim and non-Muslim ethnic groups who may be retaliating against recent massacres in the name of God.