The inauguration of Jakarta’s first Christian governor in 50 years has been delayed to allow for a presidential decree on his appointment, another setback on his contested journey to power.
Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama had been scheduled to be sworn. He succeeds Joko Widodo, who last month became President of Indonesia.
However, it is not the first obstacle Chinese Christian Purnama, who is known by the nickname Ahok, has faced. His rise to power has been contested by religious hardliners who have held multiple protests in Jakarta.
In September, around 200 members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) staged a demonstration in front of a regional legislative building in the capital city. One of the group’s leaders told news agencies that it is “forbidden to have an infidel as the head of Jakarta”.
“Ahok Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, we reject him to be the governor of Jakarta because he has no moral ethics,” the spokesperson said.
The Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief, and the country is predominantly moderate, however Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that militant Islamists have been able to push through a number of measures in recent years which could have “serious, long-term implications” on minority rights.
A report released in February of this year found that rising religious intolerance across the country “poses a threat…to all Indonesians who value democracy, human rights, peace and stability.”
“Indonesia’s pluralism is in peril, and almost all of Indonesia’s different religious communities are affected… Religious intolerance, once thought to be confined to specific regions, now appears to be spreading nationwide.”