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National election in Indonesia exposes rift

Indonesia (MNN/WAS) — The election commission in Indonesia announced this week that President Joko Widodo won April’s election with 55 percent of the vote.

While it was good news for Widodo and his allies, not everyone agreed with the results. Rival Prabowo Subianto refused to concede, declared himself the rightful winner of the April 17 poll, and promised to contest the results through the courts.

A narrow view on riots in Indonesia

As a result, political tension spilled into deadly clashes several nights in Java and Jakarta, with police using tear gas to disperse the mobs. At stake: the validity of the presidential poll, amid accusations of widespread fraud.

Parts of Jakarta were in lockdown, with streets cordoned off and 30,000 police and military troops on standby. The president addressed the nation Wednesday night and reassured people that the violence was under control. As of Thursday, nearly 60,000 security personnel patrolled the streets.

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Smith)

Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates confirms the situation even as they kick off a number of Bible translation projects in Borneo.

“To me, what this reflects is how incendiary the whole situation is. You have the largest Muslim nation in the world [and] you’ve got a pretty large Christian minority. There’s also a mixture of lots of other religious groups there as well. So, religion actually plays a very important role in the whole election process.”

Many of the protests take place on a local level, says Smith. “There are crowds in certain places, but basically, our translation teams know how to navigate the situations. They know how to stay out of harm’s way and keep the work going — so it hasn’t disrupted us.”

To put the situation into context, Smith observes, “A lot of times the violence is about as big as the camera lens. What it appears is that the whole nation is in violence, and that’s just not the case.”

Growing pains

Smith describes the unrest as the convulsion of a nation in transition. “It’s a reflection of how challenging the environment is from a security position. The flip side of it that we’re seeing day-to-day is that more and more languages are asking for God’s Word in their own language.”

It’s important to note, “We’re actually seeing an open door in some places where Christians have been elected into government positions. They’re actually making progress toward supporting Bible translation using government funding. So again, we see this as a ripe opportunity for Bible translation to keep moving forward.”

Clamor for hope

Wycliffe Associates intends to launch 100 new Bible translations this year among the most populous people on the island of Borneo. More than three million Dayak people on Borneo — representing 287 languages — are without the Scriptures.

(Photo courtesy of Bruce Smith)

Decades ago, missionaries shared the Gospel with the Dayak, predominantly in the Indonesian language. Word of mouth saw the Gospel spread from the cities to smaller towns and villages.

Only a handful of the local languages had Bible translations. In some of the most remote Dayak villages, only a few of the residents speak Indonesian.

Through an innovative translation method known as MAST, or Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation, Wycliffe Associates provides training to mother-tongue translators in a workshop setting, staffed by local believers.

“These are all minority languages in which the Gospel has been proclaimed. There is a church that exists. You have church structures that are connected denominationally. You have elders and deacons and pastors — you know, all of the normal things that we associate with a developed church — and you have believers within that church that are multilingual, that are ready to do the translation work under their church’s leadership.”

Smith adds that the translators and church leadership participate in a review process throughout the translation project to help ensure the translation is accurate. Twenty-first century neurological and education theories guided the development of the MAST strategy, which consists of four drafting steps and four accuracy checking steps.

“One hundred language groups are already recruiting mother-tongue Bible translators to start translating,” says Smith.

Wycliffe Associates helps to connect these believers to the technology and tools: computer tablets, Bible translation resources, and training.

“We are mobilizing a team of Indonesian Christian facilitators who can train the local people using our MAST methodology and can encourage them and walk alongside them through this process. So, truly, hundreds of facilitators are already in place that are able to respond to these other languages that are ready to get started.”

Header photo courtesy of Gunawan Kartapranata/Wikimedia/CC.

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