It is a time of purported visions and miracles for tens of thousands of Indonesians, as the world’s most populous Muslim nation experiences a rise in the number of self-proclaimed prophets thanks to social media.
But the emergence of new religious movements claiming divine connections, which often draw on elements of Islam and Christianity, has been highly controversial in the increasingly conservative Muslim nation.
Several new religious leaders and their followers have already been prosecuted and imprisoned under the country’s strict blasphemy laws.
Al Makin, an Indonesian expert in new religious movements at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, said the movements had gained traction mainly due to increased exposure on social media and people seeking answers during periods of economic and political uncertainty.
“Their existence often stems from uncertainties surrounding an unstable political climate,” he said, referring to the widespread social instability after the fall of former president Suharto and the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which caused job losses and increased poverty.