The Special Capital Region of Jakarta is the heart of a massive urban conglomerate that includes more than 30 million people. After Tokyo, greater Jakarta is the second largest urban area in the world!
Jakarta proper, a port city on the north coast of the island of West Java, has a hot, humid, tropical climate.
It was built on low-lying drained swampland and is sinking almost 7 inches per year. It suffers serious flooding from the 13 rivers flowing through it. Despite some large squares and gardens as well as some mass transit systems, the city is clogged with motorcycles, scooters, and cars, which cause unending traffic slowdowns and serious air pollution.
Jakarta’s economy is built on trade, financial and medical services, commerce, administration, industry, and (mostly domestic) tourism. There are more than 83 malls, and Jakarta has the most square-footage of shopping space of any city in the world.
There has been settlement on the site of Jakarta since the early 5th century. Europeans arrived in 1513, and after the Dutch defeated the British, the Dutch named the city Batavia, and made it their Indonesian capital in 1619. The Dutch East India Company developed powerful and prosperous trade and shipping businesses while the Netherlands controlled the country for more than 300 years.
Following a brief period of Japanese control during WWII, the city was made the capital of newly independent Indonesia and renamed Jakarta (“victorious city”) in 1949. As the capital region, Jakarta exercises wide influence within the country and around Southeast Asia.
The city is very diverse. The five largest ethnic groups are the Javanese (36%), Betawi (28%; local Jakarta people), Sundanese (15%), Chinese (7%), and Batak (3.5%). Indonesian is the official and dominant language, with English the second most widely spoken. Most people use their own ethnic language at home.
Though Islam dominates the religious scene in Jakarta (83.5%), there are other large religious communities: Protestantism (8.5%), Catholicism (4%), and Buddhism (3.8%).
Indonesian Muslims often pride themselves on their tolerance of religious diversity. However there have been increasing numbers of attacks on churches throughout Indonesia, including in Jakarta. In a widely publicized 2017 case, Ahok, the Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta, was convicted of blasphemy by the supreme court for publicly quoting the Quran and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The influence of Islamists is clearly growing in the city and country.
Nevertheless, about 13% of Jakarta is Christian! Christians have freedom to worship, and they are usually able to openly practice their faith within certain places and with limited parameters. Of the twelve largest congregations in Indonesia, about half are in Greater Jakarta.
Reports of many rapidly-growing movements to Christ among Muslims in Indonesia has the government concerned. But the extent of these movements in urban areas such as Jakarta is unclear. This is a time of growing harvest – and of growing persecution of converts to Christ.