Indonesia's new stoning law raises concern for Christians

Published 19 September 2009  |  
Christians have expressed deep concern over the passing of new law in Aceh province of Indonesia that allows stoning to death for women caught in adultery.

The law -- which also allows punishments of up to 400 lashes for child rape, 100 lashes for homosexual acts and 60 lashes for gambling -- was passed unanimously Monday by lawmakers in the region at the northern tip of Sumatra island, according to Agence-French Press (AFP).

Human Rights group in the country too have condemned the new law, "The laws that have been approved in Aceh are cruel and degrading to humanity," National Commission on Human Rights head Ifdhal Kasim was quoted by AFP as saying.

According to Jakarta Post, the Aceh provincial government official said it will not sign the controversial Islamic bylaw allowing adulterers to be stoned to death; but has stated that the office of the governor is powerless to stop the law. The Aceh province, where Islam arrived from Saudi Arabia centuries ago, enjoys semi-autonomy from the central government.

Separatists in Aceh had fought the Indonesian government since 1976 until a peace deal in 2005 in a conflict that claimed over 15,000 lives. Since then, it has been given a great autonomy and has progressively adopted stricter application of the Islamic law.

According to AFP, the controversial legal change was passed just weeks before a new, more moderate provincial assembly -- dominated by the Aceh Party of former separatist fighters of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) -- is due to take power.

Indonesia is an overwhelmingly Islam country. According to 2000 census, Muslims make up 86.1 percent,while Christians account for 8.6 percent of the country population which is touching an estimated 240 millions this year. A significant number of Hindus, Buddhists and Confucionists and others make up about 5.2 percent.

Washington D.C.-based International Christian COncern (ICN) has requested Christians to pray for the believers in Aceh province. It says, "The (new) law is a part of a trend in the region of stricter and stricter application of Islamic law - an effect that always results in increased hostility against Chrsitians and non-Muslims."

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