A letter from Rebecca Young in Indonesia
A Remarkable Day in Jakarta, Indonesia
As Christians we are called to share the good news, and today I want to share some good news with all of you. But you are going to be surprised: this good news is about politics. I know what you are thinking: how could any news about politics be good, especially these days? Well, I’m very excited to tell you that there is good news about politics coming out of Jakarta, the city where I live. But there are a few things to explain before I tell you the news, so that you can see why I think it is worth sharing.
First, Jakarta is a huge place. It is the center of the second largest metropolitan area in the world after Tokyo, with an estimated 25 million people living and working here (Tokyo has 35 million). Jakarta is such a massive city that its top government official is referred to as a governor instead of a mayor. That title makes sense when you remember that, of the 50 states in the U.S.A., only California (with 37 million people) has more residents than metro Jakarta.
Second, Indonesia has been a democratic country for only 14 years. Prior to that it had been under two successive military dictatorships for 58 years after enduring 350 years as a colony of the Dutch. So the Indonesian people are very new to democracy and to a person having the right to cast a meaningful vote for their leaders. For centuries all the political decisions that controlled the lives of ordinary citizens were made without their input.
Third, the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a Muslim while his wife, Ani, grew up in a Roman Catholic family. Her father was a famous military leader and also a Christian.
Fourth, the U.S.A. has played a crucial role during the past 14 years in guiding Indonesia as it becomes a democracy. Our government has provided ongoing capacity-building, resources and facilitation as Indonesia learns how to function as a newly democratized society. Our help started 14 years ago by guiding them through their first direct presidential election. Since then every couple of years new elections have been held further and further down the ladder, in provincial elections, then district elections, then sub-district elections, and most recently citywide elections.
Now for the good news: On Sept. 20, 2012, Jakarta held peaceful elections to choose a new governor and deputy governor who will serve for four years. The governor, Joko Widodo, is a Muslim, while his running mate, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, is a Christian. In other words, the first lady of the world’s second largest democracy as well as the deputy governor of the world’s second largest democracy are both from Christian families, and they live in the county with the world’s largest population of Muslims.
I also want to remind you that this election took place during the week when the media was barraged with news of the “Muslim rage” that erupted after an anti-Muslim video was posted on the Internet. Yet here in Indonesia, in the midst of the media uproar, a peaceful, democratic election took place in which a Muslim-Christian team was elected by a population that is mostly Muslim.
The incumbent governor and his deputy governor are both Muslim, and during the campaign they gave donations to several large Jakarta Christian church congregations in hopes of “winning” the church members' vote away from the team of Joko Wi and Basuki, as they are commonly called. In spite of these attempted bribes, the incumbent lost. The people on the street said that this fact was an example of how the incumbent was a corrupt man, while the winning team of Joko Wi and Basuki did not try to buy the people’s votes but relied on putting forward good policies that will benefit the people. And it worked.
Finally, the icing on the cake of this good news is that Joko Wi, the governor-to-be, is known for being on the side of the people rather than of big corporations. He wants to stop the construction of any new malls that are filled with international chain stores and instead build open-air markets where local Indonesian entrepreneurs can sell their wares. Every person on the street that I have spoken with is excited about how the new governor will effectively continue in the path to democracy that Indonesia has already begun so well.
Imagine: an election in which corruption did not succeed, that was held peacefully, and a city made up mostly of Muslims elected a combination Muslim-Christian team to be their leaders for the next four years.
This is good news, not only for Indonesia but for the world of the hope that we have that people of different faiths can live together in peace, and that the clean candidate is the one who wins.
Please keep the people of Indonesia in your prayers, thanking God for their good progress toward democracy and toward a just and welcoming society for all people. Amen.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 189