By Shannon Baker
COLUMBIA, Md. – Fifteen-year-old Roy Pontoh was attending a Christian retreat when militant Muslims stormed the camp and killed one of his adult leaders.
Though he and the other young boys chaotically attempted to hide from the men with machetes, they were rounded together for questioning. Tall for his age, Pontoh stood out among his fellow Bible studiers.
A member of the Laskar Jihad Indonesia, a radical group of jihad warriors, asked Pontoh who he was. Standing even taller, Pontoh replied, “I am a soldier of God.” In response, the jihadist sliced his arm with the machete, practically severing it off his body.
He asked Pontoh again who he was, of which was the reply: “I am a soldier of God.”
The angry militant man gashed Pontoh’s second arm and asked again. This time, Pontoh answered more fully, “I am a soldier of God. I love Jesus Christ!” Pontoh was met with more plunges of the machete, this time deep into his stomach and neck, leaving him a martyr for his faith.
It was later learned that the theme of the teen retreat was “Standing up for God as a Good Soldier,” described Kongkin* (last name withheld for security reasons), who shared Pontoh’s story at a May 15 luncheon at the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
Kongkin serves in advocacy as a ministry partner of Open Doors, a nonprofit organization focused on serving persecuted Christians.
“Roy Pontoh definitely passed the test,” Kongkin said, explaining Pontoh has become a national hero in Indonesia, known for his bold faith in the face of death.
Though Kongkin was born a Muslim, he became a Christian at 18 years old, when he wanted to find out for himself who was the one true God. In his search, he attended a three-day Christian conference, where he became convinced that Jesus Christ was the way.
A good part of Kongkin’s adult life has been spent on helping persecuted Christians throughout his native Indonesia. He now travels across the world to tell others how Open Doors equips persecuted Christians through programs like Bible and Gospel development, women and children advancement, and Christian community restoration.
Open Doors defines Christian persecution as any hostility—from death, imprisonment and torture to discrimination in education and employment—experienced from the world because of one’s identification as a Christian.
Sadly, Christians in more than 60 countries face such persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
That reality is especially true in Indonesia, Kongkin said.
A 2010 census reported 88 percent of the Indonesian population identifies as Muslims, while less than 10 percent are Christian. That translates to 230.7 million Muslims, the highest population of Muslims in the world—even more than Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries combined!
And yet, within the 17,000 Indonesian islands, there are differences within the Muslims, with some preferring the hard-lined “Islam by the Book (Koran),” which creates rampant corruption and chaos, Kongkin said.
The corruption led to the development of the “Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission,” which resulted in more Islamic groups being established—and more money raised to harm other religious adherents, particularly Christians and Sunni Muslims.
At the turn of the millennium, a well-organized Laskar Jihad Indonesia, a radical group of jihad warriors willing to die and kill for their faith, was developed. The group opened its membership and swelled to over 6,000 people who eventually sought blessing from the country’s Parliament.
Though claiming they “would do social help for communities,” the militaristic group began campaigns to harm Christians, Kongkin said. The radicals eventually made it to the island of Ambon, where they met Roy Pontoh, who truly stood for his faith, leaving an example for fellow Christians to follow.
Initially, Christians were quick to forgive the militant Muslims for burning and bulldozing their churches—and even decapitating the head off a statue of Jesus. And they forgave when three of their own female high school students were brutally decapitated.
“We forgive you because God has first forgiven us,” Kongkin related the parents’ amazing response.
Yet over time, many Christians, claiming they had “no more cheeks,” referencing Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), started retaliating against the Muslims. They burned down their houses and mosques. They killed their children.
“The devil—the real enemy—was having a ball to see all this happen,” Kongkin asserted.
By the world’s standards, the efforts seemed successful. A reported 12,000 Muslims had been killed, while only 6,000 Christians had died. Why fewer Christians? “Because God was fighting for us,” Kongkin heard them say.
But by God’s standards, it was apparent the Christians did not know how to act in a godly way.
And so, Open Doors began teaching “Standing Strong through the Storms” seminars at churches and Bible schools. Open Doors espoused the belief that a Christian’s suffering and persecution can be placed in God’s hands and the only way they can get through extreme hurt is by forgiving people as Christ did.
Included in one of the seminars was Bapak Paulus Tungkana, a commander-in-chief of the Christian forces in conflict-torn Poso. Flanked by two bodyguards, the Christian leader listened intently to Open Doors’ teachings for three days. At the close, he cried for five minutes, later telling Kongkin that he felt convicted about the atrocities he had led.
“God has struck me throughout these three days,” Tungkana had said. “I am repentant for what I have done. Please pray for me.”
Later, after another Christian village was attacked by Muslims, the commander was summoned to lead the retaliation. Tungkana urged the mostly young people to gather in the soccer field where so many times before, pastors, in robes, used to pray blessings over the people and their weapons.
But this time, he asked everyone to kneel and pray against the violence. “For once and for now on, let us not kill Muslims. Let us pray. Let God alone show justice,” he urged.
That event was an answer to prayer for Open Doors, who also has worked with orphans and refugees affected by the crises, Kongkin shared. The non-profit has helped imprisoned Christians to see the opportunities to share the Gospel with other prisoners and has even assisted in the building of a church inside one of the prisons.
“There’s always a reason why they are sent to these places,” Kongkin explained.
Today, Kongkin is aware of how radical Muslims are becoming more and more involved in the government and law-making sectors.
He pointed to the recent imprisonment of Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the ethnic Chinese and Christian governor of Jakarta who was charged with committing blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison.
“There is an uneasy undercurrent all over our country,” Kongkin said.
“The worst thing Satan can do is to be [blatantly abusive] in orange suits,” he said, explaining the “smashing” of beheadings and awful violence raises prayers. But the “squeezing” through societal pressures—you can be a Christian but you can’t buy groceries, your kids can’t go to school, etc.—takes the persecution from “black and white to color,” he said.
Open Doors receives prayer requests from persecuted Christians all over the world, he said, but it’s not for more money. It’s prayer for safety and effectiveness: “Please pray that God gives me the strength and courage to live or die for my faith.”
They also don’t want to feel alone, he said.
Kongkin urged his listeners to pray accordingly for the persecuted Christians in Indonesia and for many Muslims, like he was, to become Christians themselves.
To learn more about Open Doors, visit online at www.opendoorsusa.org.