The world’s largest IslamÂic nation is Indonesia, where Muslims represent a large majority of a population of some 250 million. Christians make up about 10 percent of that number, and relations between the two faiths have on occasion been rocky. Matters reached their worst in the late 1990s, a time of economic crisis and the collapse of the long-standing military dictatorship. During the chaos, Christian minorities in regions like Sulawesi were subjected to ethnic cleansing and Chinese ChrisÂtians in major cities were targeted for violence and mass rape.
In large part, these crimes resulted from economic grievances””Chinese merchants were targeted as scapeÂgoats. Active Islamist terror movements also appeared, with ties to al-Qaeda. For some years, IndoÂnesia seemed to epitomize Muslim-Christian tensions at their most alarming.
Subsequently, conditions have improved enormously, or rather, reverted to traditional norms of tolerance. Although Christians must be very cautious about any attempts at evanÂgelism, congregations worship openly, and Indonesia is now home to some spectacular megachurches.
The most encouraging manÂiÂfestation of improved attitudes is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is commonly known by his Chinese nickname, Ahok. Since 2014, Ahok has been governor of the nation’s capital, Jakarta, a city with a population of 10 million, with some 30 million in the larger metropolitan region.