By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife) -- An Indonesian court has sentenced 41 Christian leaders to five years imprisonment on charges of blasphemy because they openly prayed that Muslims "come to know Christ," local Christians and a well-informed human rights group told BosNewsLife Thursday, November 1.
Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM) Australia said the Christians, who are linked to the international mission group Campus Crusade for Christ, participated in a December, 2006, prayer gathering in the Indonesian province of East Java.
"During this time they prayed for their nation asking that all Muslim leaders come to know Christ. Video footage of this prayer meeting was filmed and was leaked to a Muslim organization," VOM Australia said.
The organization quoted local sources as saying that the 41 believers "have been found guilty of abusing the Koran," seen as a holy book by Muslims. "The judge sentenced them to five years in prison". Their lawyers are planning to appeal the sentence in East Java High Court in Surabaya, VOM Australia added.
A top official from Indonesia highest Muslim authority, the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) told reporters earlier that in total 60 Christians were being sought in connection with the production of a video of the prayer gathering which allegedly contained anti-Islamic sentiments.
"We don't want revenge but only justice," MUI MUI official Muhammad Nidzom Hidayatullah was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI).
The news agency said the video reportedly showed a ceremony of praying youths, dressed in what appears to be traditional Islamic style clothing, while Christian songs provided background music. A Christian leader allegedly showed the Koran saying: "This is the source of all Indonesiaâ€™s ills, violence and terrorism."
Criticizing Islam, and especially evangelism, are sensitive issues in Indonesia, the worldâ€™s largest Muslim nation. Almost 9 percent of its roughly 235 million people, are Christians, the rest mainly Muslims.
The sentencing of the 41 Christians for alleged blasphemy is no isolated case. In June three Indonesian women who were serving a prison sentence for including Muslim children in a church program in West Java, Indonesia, were released amid international pressure, BosNewsLife learned.
Ratna Bangun, Eti Pangesti and Dr. Rebekka Zakaria were released from Indramayu State Prison in West Java after serving two years of a three-year sentence on charges related to running a 'Sunday School' for mainly local Muslim children. (With BosNewsLife reporting).
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