Despite facing threats of violence and death from local Muslims, Christians in Indonesia are standing firm in their faith, taking to heart the words of the Apostle Paul - "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."
According to Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International, a group of believers in the country, led by FMI-supported church planter Pastor Yudianto, was holding a meeting about starting a formal church when about 20 radical Muslims interrupted.
The Muslims told the Christians to disperse and never meet again, threatening them with machetes and taking their pictures for future intimidation. A box of weapons was later discovered outside the church door for quick access.
"Pastor Yudianto stayed a while longer with the family who had hosted the church meeting," Allen says. "They just shared their heart with him, wondering, 'How do we go on from here? We're nervous, we're scared, but what do we do next? We still want to be discipled by you.'"
Despite facing possible death, Yudianto, who individually disciples about 15 believers in this village, revealed he plans on returning to the village later this month to continue his ministry.
"He'll hold a meeting with all those Christians again, several different families and parts of families represented in that new congregation, and really encourage them, saying, 'This is what we face as Christians in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim dominant country,'" Allen told Mission Network News.
"Even though Christians enjoy protection constitutionally, on a local level, practically, they may not enjoy that because of radical elements that like to go from village to village and hunt down Christians."
Indonesia ranks #43 on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution, even though the country's 45 million believers constitute about 20% of the country's population, with 15% Protestant and 5% Catholic.
While the Indonesian constitution provides for freedom of religion, Christians are afforded little protection by local police. Yudianto told Allen that in the village of his primary ministry site, there is a police officer affiliated with a radical extremist mosque: "So if the Christians need the protection of the police, if there is an attack, or churches are burned or bombed, or a Christian is physically harmed or threatened, sometimes they wonder, 'Will the police really come to my aid?'" he said.
FMI is currently working alongside Yudianto to train him to work through such issues.
"[During] my visit to Indonesia this summer, part of our ongoing training conference was talking about how our identity in Christ makes us more than conquerors," Allen told MNN.
"That whole concept is still what Paul says. We are like sheep led to the slaughter, but even in the middle of all these hardships and difficult circumstances, we can remain more than conquerors. We do not have to let these difficulties - tribulations, famine, persecution, things like that - they don't have to defeat us. We can have victory even in the middle of them," he added.
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.
Because of this, Open Doors USA president David Curry has called on 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."