|[This map of Indonesia is public domain.]|
Indonesia is a fascinating country. It has some 17,000 islands (I say "some" because a few disappear at high tide─an Indonesian joke), with 240,000,000 inhabitants. It is the fourth most populous nation on the planet.
Last weekend I spoke at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, where Christian Indonesian college students and young working professionals currently living in the United States gathered to focus on how business can positively affect Indonesian communities, particularly underprivileged people in rural areas.
Many non-Indonesians are surprised to learn that 88% of the Indonesian population claims to be Muslim. In fact, Indonesia has more self-proclaimed Muslims than any other nation on earth. The number of Muslims in Indonesia exceeds the number that are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan combined!
How did it happen that this part of the world, far from the Middle East, came to have such a large body of Muslims? Michael Baer, in Business As Mission, writes:
"I once asked an Indonesian Christian why the country had become so predominantly Muslim...She said that when the Western Christians came, primarily from Holland, they built missionary compounds and missionary churches and expected the Indonesian people to come to them. The Muslims, on the other hand, came as traders, farmers, merchants, and businesspeople and simply lived among the natives."
Dr. Darrell Furgason, a friend of mine who holds a Ph. D. from the University of Sydney in Religious Studies, and is an expert on Islam, has this to say:
"In places like Africa and Indonesia, the church has been intellectually crippled, with one hand tied behind its back. Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else--religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics...African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything...Muslims see their faith as all-encompassing..."
The "Sacred-Secular Split" [SSD] is not part of the Muslim mindset. Yet, regrettably for all nations, it is the mindset of far too many Christians. Take 2.5 minutes to hear what Dr. Aila Tasse told me about the problem of "SSD" in northern Kenya, where his organization, Lifeway Mission, plants churches in Muslim communities [http://youtu.be/o5qHFe6O1uU]: