Indonesia | Jakarta gets a Christian governor

The first Christian governor of the Indonesian capital in 50 years was sworn in yesterday despite loud protests from Islamic hard-liners who insisted Jakarta’s top political job go to a Muslim.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Protestant who is also the first ethnic Chinese to become an Indonesian governor, had gained a reputation as deputy governor for being outspoken and combatting corruption and cutting red tape. He is better known by Chinese nickname “Ahok.”
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where 87 percent of its 250 million people are Muslim. Christians make up about 10 percent.
Purnama, 48, took the oath of office in a ceremony presided over by President Joko Widodo — the city’s previous leader before he became president last month — at the state palace in Jakarta, where 10,000 police and soldiers were deployed for security. Purnama’s term runs until 2017.
Islamic hard-liners have held street protests against Purnama’s installment as governor of the city of 12 million. The Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line group known by its Indonesian acronym FPI, has vowed to stage weekly protests against him. FPI has a long record of vandalizing nightspots, hurling stones at Western embassies and attacking rival religious groups.
Jakarta’s first Christian governor was Henk Ngantung from 1964 to 1965. Christians are spread out unevenly across the Indonesian archipelago, with larger concentrations in northern Sulawesi island and some other eastern islands.
Born as Zhong Wan Xie off of Sumatra island, Purnama was elected to Indonesia’s legislature in 2009, and was installed as Jakarta deputy governor three years later.
Ethnic Chinese make about 15 percent of the country, and were subject to government discrimination during the dictatorship of Suharto that ended in 1998. Niniek Karmini, Jakarta , AP

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