Remember Our Brothers and Sisters.

When Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (also known as Ahok) was sentenced to two years for “blasphemy”, the news took the international community by storm [1]. His crime? He proclaimed that his voters should not be duped by religious leaders using a Quranic verse to justify the claim that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims [2].

Whether or not Ahok’s decision constituted to “blasphemy” does not matter now that his sentence has almost come to an end. Rather, the point I want to bring out here is the fact that Ahok is just like any one of us who was simply fighting for justice in his own field (in this case, the election. Ahok is like any other Christian who is simply doing his best to serve his community. However, with the slightest mistake like a carelessly spoken phrase, he was chucked away in prison with severe tribulations awaiting him for a period of time, then he was forgotten.

“Ahok is just like any one of us who was simply fighting for justice in his own field; doing his best to serve his community.”

Ahok’s sentence harsher than the sentence that was sought for for him. On top of this, religious extremist preached that Ahok’s blood was haram and that killing him was good [3]. Not forgetting that he was transferred to high-security detention after his supporters surrounded the prison he was initially held at [4], and the hurt that was caused by his wife’s infidelity [5]. From a high-profile governor who was fighting to for justice in his election, Ahok was left with almost nothing, locked up in a cell all alone in the suburbs of Jakarta.

Little has been written about Ahok ever since. Not even from Human Rights NGOs or minority groups that were fighting for Ahok. It felt as if the entire world has forgotten about him – including his closest family.

“God sustained and empowered Ahok to face his struggles.”

But God did not forget him.

In fact, God sustained him and empowered him to face his struggles. When given the opportunity for an early release, he rejected and insisted on completing his sentence [6]. We do not know his motive for doing so, but we know for certain that God is at work, healing him in the process.

As I reflected on his sentence, I was reminded of all the suffering of the saints that was recorded in the Bible. Joseph was thrown into a cistern before being sold into Egypt. He was imprisoned for not wanting to commit adultery with his master’s wife and was forgotten after he helped cupbearer (Ref: Genesis 37-40, NIV). Remember Priscilla and Aquilla who risked their lives for Paul (Ref: Romans 16:3-4). Remember, Paul, Peter, and the other disciples who were persecuted and killed for their faith. Remember Christ!

“There are countless of Christians all over the world currently facing all sorts of persecutions ranging from kidnapping to imprisonment, from facing the death penalty, to torture.”

The church was reminded to remember Paul’s chains (Colossians 4:18) when he was still alive and facing persecutions. And we should too. There are countless of Christians all over the world currently facing all sorts of persecutions ranging from kidnapping [7] to imprisonment [8], from facing the death penalty [9], to torture [10].

Question is, are we even vaguely aware of their existence and their sufferings?

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe…”
— Romans 15:30-31a, NIV.

Let’s not forget to pray and care for suffering brothers and sisters.

 

References:

[1] Lamb, K. (2017). Jakarta governor Ahok sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/09/jakarta-governor-ahok-found-guilty-of-blasphemy-jailed-for-two-years

[2] Lamb, K. (2016). Jakarta governor Ahok’s blasphemy trial: All you need to know. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/jakarta-governor-ahoks-blasphemy-trial-all-you-need-to-know

[3] Reuters. (2017). Ex-Jakarta governor Ahok begins life in prison with just a Bible. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/ahok-begins-life-in-prison-with-just-a-bible

[4] Davies, E. (2017). A Bible and a cell: a new life for Jakarta’s high-flying Christian governor. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/indonesia-politics-prison-int-idUSKBN1870X3

[5] Soeriaatmadja, W. (2018). Jakarta court grants ex-governor Ahok’s divorce request, custody of 2 younger children. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/jakarta-court-accepts-ahoks-divorce-request-grants-him-child-custody

[6] Chan, F. (2018). Ahok to refuse parole in hope of early release. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/ahok-to-refuse-parole-in-hope-of-early-release

[7] Naidu, S. (2018). Still missing one year on, wife of abducted Malaysian pastor pleads for his release. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/abducted-malaysian-pastor-raymond-koh-missing-9956048

[8] Wang, Yanan. (2018). AP Exclusive: Jailed Chinese pastor’s US family seeks mercy. Retrieved from https://www.apnews.com/5f100e3346814ad28caf2ff2ec1a554c

[9] Davies, M. (2016). Sudanese pastors facing death penalty appear in court. Retrieved from https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2016/26-august/news/world/sudanese-in-court

[10]. Klett, L. M. (2018). Chinese Christians Living a ‘Nightmare’ Under Xi Jinping, Says New Report. Retrieved from https://www.gospelherald.com/articles/71874/20181024/chinese-christians-living-nightmare-under-xi-jinping-new-report.htm

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