An elderly Christian woman was publicly whipped nearly 30 times in a conservative province in Indonesia for selling alcohol as the persecution of Christians continues to rise in the predominantly Muslim country.
According to a report from the South China Morning Post, the 60-year was whipped with a rattan cane before a crowd of hundreds in Aceh province along with a couple who were subjected to 100 lashes for committing adultery.
SCMP notes that Aceh is the only province in the country that applies a strict interpretation of sharia law.
"Public canings for breaches of Islamic code happen on a regular basis and often attract huge crowds," reads the report. "Those caught engaging in adultery, same-sex relationships, drinking and even associating with unmarried members of the opposite sex can end up facing the cane."
Previously, the law, which was implemented back in 2001, only applied to Muslims, but a bylaw that took effect late last year allowed the regulations to be applied to non-Muslims as well.
"This is the first case of a non-Muslim being punished under Islamic criminal bylaw," Lili Suparli, a senior official at the Central Aceh prosecutor's office told AFP regarding the flogging of the Christian woman.
Indonesia ranks #43 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, and has the largest Islamic population in the world, according to the Pew Research Center.
"President Joko Widodo, who was surprisingly elected in May 2014, has shown signs of favoring human rights and listening to minorities," reads the report. "Despite this, his track record has disappointed national and international observers. Religious minorities continue to suffer from radical Islamic groups and Christians face problems in registering church buildings, sometimes even suffering violent attacks."
In October, a group of Muslim extremists torched three church buildings in Aceh, killing one person in the process.
Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry told the Mission News Network that the crime was sparked by vicious social media campaign calling on Muslims to desecrate Christian churches, which they claimed were unlicensed: "Muslim extremists have been spreading a viral message about 'here's what's happening in churches' and sort of stirring up dissension," he said.
He added, "With all of the technology available, there's more opportunity for people to stir up dissension, and (now) you have this incident in Indonesia, where this church was burned down."
A report released by World Evangelical Alliance in September said that not enough has been done in Indonesia to curb persecution of religious minorities at the hands of Islamic radicals and charged that President Widodo's measures are too lukewarm to rein in extremists' threats.
"[President Widodo] does seem to have the will, as he recognizes that religious extremism is a serious issue, unlike his predecessor Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono, who neither acknowledged nor did anything to control the growth of extremist groups," Christianity Daily quotes the report as stating.
In light of the recent spurt in violence, Curry is urging the Christian community worldwide to unite in prayer for their brothers and sisters in Indonesia.
"Christianity is opposed in Indonesia," he said. " It is a very difficult place to work, but we need to be praying, we need to be going, we need to be interacting with and loving Muslims in that culture. I think we keep pressing forward, but we know what we're dealing with."