Christian Candidate Hoping to Help Muslim Indonesia

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JAKRATA, Indonesia -- The gubernatorial elections in Indonesia on Sept. 20 is getting a lot of attention because of its candidates.

Christian politician Basuki Purnama is running as vice governor in Jakarta, a surprising ticket since Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world.

As the election draws closer, reports have emerged that campaigns are intimidating voters to cast their ballots along ethnic and religious lines.

Clerics in many mosques are using their loudspeakers to tell people to vote only for Muslims. And a famous singer campaigning for the incumbent told crowds gathered in a mosque for Ramadan prayers that it was their duty to vote only for Muslims.

The singer, Rhoma, said he did nothing wrong because he was merely quoting a verse from the Koran that says, "Muslims should never choose an infidel to lead them, otherwise they would incur God's wrath."

Purnama is not only Christian, but also ethnic Chinese. He's running for a very important post that can be a stepping stone to the presidency.

Purnama's supporters also appreciate his clean record of local governance, giving free education and health care to the poor.

"I am disappointed with our present leaders because they promised to build roads and made other promises, but when they rule nothing happened," Chinese businessman Franz Winardi said. "I believe Purnama can bring a fresh change."

But it is not only the Chinese who are supporting Purnama. Other political parties whose members are highly educated Muslims convinced him to run in the capital.

Purnama's determination to change people's lives has won him a seat in the House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, he's been known for his honesty and leading the fight against corruption.

"So I become the eye, ear, mouth, and hand of the people," Purnama said. "All things that I know, I write it down. Even receipts, my salary, every expense that I had in or out of town, I always made the report. So the people understand that I'm their employee."

One recent survey claims Indonesia is the most corrupt country in the Asia Pacific. Many Indonesians believe Purnama can change all that.

He said it is his faith in God that molds his convictions.

"The most important thing is what God says. Every human being may fall in sin. The thing is how do you get up?" Purnama said. "We need to speak to our conscience, our conscience is being purified by the word of God."

"My God is Jesus, so I must speak to Him ... speak face to face like a friend to Him," he continued. "I have this kind of mindset: 'Please check my heart.' There's no perfect human ... I am here because of God's grace, not because of my qualities, but because God chose me."

And to the Indonesian people he hopes to serve, Purnama advises them to "love the Lord and then love your neighbor as yourself."

"If you fully understand those laws," he explained, "you'll be a person who loves people and the country."

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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