The Christian Science Monitor

In an Ohio town, fostering community over cream puffs

Before the Monsons’ bakery opened last November, the only place to get a hot lunch in the one-stoplight village of Corning, Ohio, was at the gas station deli. Main Street was mostly desolate, marked by buildings long shuttered and empty. But the Monsons, who relocated from California, saw something not many did: potential. “I’m hoping that by [our] coming in, it gets people thinking about the possibilities,” says Malana Monson.
Public Radio International

Guatemalan women transform their town one brushstroke at a time

Lidia Florentino Cumes Cumez is one of several women helping helm a project to paint the 800 homes of Santa Catarina Palopó using colors and designs that imitate weavings made by indigenous women. The goal is to clean up the community and usher in jobs and development, and by taking leadership of the initiative the women here also gaining the ability to challenge traditional gender roles.

Giant Muslim Group Joins Fight Against Fake News

JAKARTA—The world’s largest Muslim organization is helping step up a battle in Indonesia to scrub the internet of fake news. At first glance, a nearly century-old organization that normally focuses on things like maintaining Islamic boarding schools and funding hospitals wouldn’t seem like the tech-savvy champion of such a cause. But Nahdlatul Ulama, which claims 50 million members, has teamed up with information-technology experts and advocacy groups to debunk a flurry of sectarian hoaxes and false news reports that began circulating on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter last year.

Muslim Hard-Liners Test Strength in Indonesia Governor’s Race

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The most prominent Christian politician in this Muslim-majority country looked set to survive an initial challenge driven by hard-line Islamic groups in a polarizing election seen as a test of religious and ethnic tolerance for this young democracy. Unofficial projections based on early counts Wednesday showed Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian from the ethnic- Chinese minority, finishing ahead of two Muslim challengers. But he failed to win a majority, meaning the top two vote-getters will face off in April.

Indonesians Pray Ahead of Fraught Election

JAKARTA—Tens of thousands of Indonesians held mass prayers at a national mosque on Saturday, in a show of strength by Islamic hard-liners ahead of heated elections pitting the controversial minority Christian governor against two Muslim challengers. Police provided heavy security amid sporadic rain, with no reports of violence. Police had said they would confine the crowd to the mosque’s interior, but people overflowed onto the streets around the giant complex, the biggest of its kind in the world’s most- populous Muslim-majority country. Crowds dispersed peacefully around midday.

Indonesia Calls Donald Trump’s Immigration Ban a Mistake

JAKARTA, Indonesia—An Indonesian official has called U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy to temporarily ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries “a mistake” that could hurt the global fight against terrorism and efforts to address a growing refugee crisis. “We are going down a slippery slope” when issues such as radicalism and terrorism start being based on a particular religion, Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told a news briefing Thursday. “No single country can address the issue of terrorism by itself,” he said.

Hard-Line Islamists Capture Spotlight in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Mainstream Muslims here used to dismiss the Islamic Defenders Front as a fringe group—moralist thugs who attacked bars serving alcohol during Ramadan or threatened “sinful” events such as a Lady Gaga concert. But in recent weeks, the organization has captured center stage, sidelining moderate religious groups as it whips up public fury in mass demonstrations against Jakarta’s Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, for allegedly insulting the Quran. “We are in the forefront because we are used to holding rallies,” said Novel Bamukmin, a leader of the Front, known as FPI. “We are trusted.”

Honk It Up, Uncle: Indonesia’s Bus Horns Capture Global Attention

JAKARTA—A meme in Indonesia about honking bus horns has gone viral, sparking a craze that has swept the dance-music world and sent social media into a tizzy trying to figure out what it means. The phrase is “Om Telolet Om”—or “Uncle, Honk Your Horn, Uncle" —something kids shout out, hold up signs saying or simply gesticulate to get bus drivers to honk their horns. Videos of the resulting cacophony are posted online.

What Sparked Indonesia’s Blasphemy Trial? – The Short Answer

A man posted a video of the speech on Facebook with captions that made it appear Mr. Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was criticizing the Quran itself, not the way it was being used against him. Conservative Islamists demanded he face blasphemy charges, and used social media to help mobilize supporters for a series of mass protests. Mr. Purnama has apologized for the remarks, but said in court Tuesday that he intended no insult or offense. He faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

Blasphemy Trial Tests Pluralism in Mostly Muslim Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The Christian chief of one of the world’s largest mostly Muslim cities delivered an emotional defense at the start of his blasphemy trial Tuesday, a politically charged case that has become a test of pluralism in this young democracy. Hundreds of people had gathered outside the courthouse in central Jakarta to demand that Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama be jailed even before the verdict, carrying on from a series of massive street protests. They were countered by dozens of supporters of the governor—also the most prominent politician in Indonesia from the ethnic Chinese minority. The small courtroom was filled to its capacity, about 80 people. In an unusual public display for Mr. Purnama, a blunt-talker often described as brash, he shed tears while telling the panel of five judges how his Muslim godparents had taught him Islamic values while he was growing up, and how insulting Islam would be tantamount to showing them disrespect.

Indonesia Muslims Push to Jail Christian Politician Accused of Blasphemy

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Conservative Muslim groups on Friday held the second mass rally in a month against the capital’s Christian governor for allegedly insulting the Quran, stoking tensions in a city already on alert following recent arrests linked to Islamic State. The protests have been seen as a test of the Muslim-majority country’s respect for tolerance in the face of the growing influence and organization of Islamist...

In Indonesia, Fears Rise Among Ethnic Chinese Amid Blasphemy Probe

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Mounting street protests against the governor here are reviving painful memories for many of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority, a group that has long faced discrimination and persecution across much of Southeast Asia. Less than two decades after hundreds of people died in racially charged rioting, the resurgent tension has left some ethnic Chinese—most of whom are Christian or Buddhist—wondering about their...

Indonesia Shift on Gays Tests Climate of Tolerance

Continuing assaults on Indonesia's gay community threaten the country's reputation for tolerance and moderation. JAKARTA, Indonesia—A sudden backlash against homosexuals here is testing Indonesia’s reputation as a conservative but tolerant society in a region where same-sex rights are generally growing. In recent weeks, religious hard-liners have staged antigay rallies across the predominantly Muslim country. Some Indonesian officials have publicly rejected homosexuality, calling it a threat to the country’s cultural and religious values. A parliamentary commission proposed a ban on gay-related media content, including transgender hosts. And the communications ministry threatened to block websites that promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyles.

Jakarta Attack: Rapid Response Restricted Death Toll, Investigators Say

JAKARTA—The attack at a busy commercial center in the Indonesian capital that killed eight people and injured more than 20 others would have been worse if not for the quick response of trained local security forces and the inexperience of the assailants, investigators said. In similar attacks on civilian targets in France, India and elsewhere, small groups of people have used guns and grenades to create chaos resulting in much higher body counts.

Jakarta Attack Planner’s Goal: A Leadership Role in Islamic State

JAKARTA, Indonesia—The Indonesian militant who police say planned the deadly attacks on Jakarta has ambitions of cementing a reputation as Islamic State’s leader in Southeast Asia, officials said Friday. Bahrun Naim, a 32-year-old from the central Java town of Solo, organized the attacks from his base in Syria and sent money to militants involved, police said. His trajectory—from Internet cafe employee in Solo to Islamist militant—shows Indonesia’s continuing problem of homegrown terrorism, as an earlier generation of al Qaeda-linked fighters shifts allegiance to Islamic State.

Foreign Firms Fret at Obstacles in Indonesia

JAKARTA—U.S. jeans and clothing maker Levi Strauss & Co. has big ambitions for Indonesia. The nation of 250 million is the company’s fastest-growing market in Asia, and Levi’s wants to invest and expand aggressively. But it is stymied by everything from mounting tariffs and sudden shifts in policy to regulations that prohibit foreign retailers from operating their own stores, says Sumesh Wadhwa, head of the Levi’s Indonesia unit. In July, regulators raised duties to 25% from 15%; Levi’s got only one day’s notice, and its goods were stalled at customs until it paid the balance, he says.

Mobile Banking Struggles to Gain Traction in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Packets of cookies, peanuts and other snacks hang from the walls of Basri’s kiosk in north Jakarta. He’s been selling goods in this narrow-alley enclave for years and as technology has progressed so has what he’s able to offer. He recently started accepting payments by transfer via mobile phone, part of an electronic money program introduced by the central bank several years ago and adopted by 20 licensed banks, telecommunication companies and electronic payment agencies. Mr. Basri, who goes by one name, is one of around 500 people in this neighborhood who do their banking via mobile, along with buying and selling goods.
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