A couple of Indonesian Christians residing in Banda Aceh province were whipped in public last Tuesday for playing a children's game that authorities said violated Muslim laws.
Dahlan Silitonga and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, ages 61 and 45 respectively, were flogged on their backs with rattan sticks for six to seven times following their arrest at an amusement complex. Reports revealed that the two were among those who had played a game that enabled people to get prizes, vouchers or cash by trading in a number of coins, which constituted gambling.
Some 300 locals watched and cheered as the offenders endured their punishment. The two Indonesian Christians were punished with three other people, as authorities lined them up for flogging, also known as lashing or caning.
Bandeh Aceh, a large conservative Muslim province at the tip of the islands, remains the only place in the country that imposes lashing in its enforcement of Sharia laws. The punishment covers a range of offenses like alcohol drinking, gambling, adultery, public display of affection, and gay sex.
"This is to create a deterrent effect, in order for people not to repeat violations of Islamic Sharia law," Mayor Aminullah Usman told reporters. "We purposely do it in front of the public...so it won't happen again."
Muslims make up at least 98 percent of Bandeh Aceh's five million residents. Locals of other faiths, however, are also subjected to the same punishments if their offenses or crimes have been proven to violate both religious and national laws.
In most cases, the accused would rather endure the physical pain and public shaming instead of going to prison or undergoing a long legal process. According to the Straits Times, one lashing is equal to a month of jail time hence even non-Muslims opt for this punishment instead.
Last January, an Indonesian Christian also chose to get whipped after his arrest for selling alcohol. Jono Simbolon received and endured 36 lashes.
Human Rights Watch has been calling out Indonesian President Joko Wikodo for failing to address this practice. The group said officials who carry out the punishments might target religious groups, the minority or the LGBT community.