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Christian Wins in World's Most Populous Muslim Nation


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Despite opposition from Islamic extremists, the capital city of the world's most populous Muslim nation now has a governor and he's a Christian.

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front protested the swearing in of ethnic Chinese Christian, Basuki Purnama.

He became governor of Jakarta late last month after his predecessor was elected president.

Muslim hardliners find it very difficult to accept that after 69 years of Indonesian independence, a Christian now sits in this governor's office.

But most Muslims welcome Purnama. They believe that he is a man of action and a man of integrity who can solve their problems.

"We have been requesting to be recognized as state teachers since 2003 but still nothing happened. But today we have hope that Basuki will be able to help us because he is a good leader," Indria, a Muslim teacher, said.

From the post of vice-governor, Purnama automatically became governor after his predecessor, Joko Widodo, was declared the new president of Indonesia in July.

Political analyst, Pastor Bigman, believes the hand of God openeded the door for Basuki.

"As a pastor I am very happy because there is hope and an open door for other Christians to be leaders in this country," Bigman said.

Purnama was born to a Christian family and served as an elementary Sunday school teacher and an elder at the Evangelical Reformed Church of Jesus Christ.

As a church leader, he expressed an interest in politics.

"Basuki loves Indonesia. He loves God. In every meeting he always says that he's just an extension of God to bless the people in Indonesia," Ardes Goenawan, Purnama's churchmate, said.

It may seem improbable for someone like Purnama to run the capital of the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, but the new governor says he considers neither his faith nor his ethnicity to be a political handicap.

"We don't talk about religion. If you ask me about my character and what I do for the people, it's for the nation," he said. "We are not for the position and the power, what's important is what you do for humanity and service for others."

So what are his future political aspirations?

"Every politician should dream to become president," he replied.

Most Indonesians would probably say the election of a Chinese president would be unlikely. But then again, few people expected a Christian to ever become governor of their capital city.

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