Pray that "this madness" in Moluccas ends

Violence in Indonesia has spiraled out of control and Christians want the United Nations to step in.

...But the government refuses to let the U.N. intervene in the country's Muluccas islands. Instead it promises it will get tougher and put a stop to the bloodshed that has killed nearly 3,000 people in 18 months.

...Indonesia's military has been unable to end the ceaseless fighting between Muslims and Christians, the Christians say. More than 10,000 troops are deployed to enforce blockades and curfews and to prevent mob violence in the chain of islands 1,600 miles northeast of the capital, Jakarta, The Associated Press reported.

...President Abdurrurahman Wahid said this week that security forces have a list of people responsible for the violence and will begin rounding up thousands of them, including "hooligans acting on behalf of Islam," the AP reported. Some arrests would occur in Jakarta where, he said, financial backers of the violence are based. Indonesia's foreign minister has ruled out any outside military intervention, such as by the United Nations.

...Many of the soldiers are incompetent or are taking sides, Catholic Archbishop of Ambon Joseph Tethool told AP. Twelve hundred soldiers are being removed because "they may have become too involved emotionally," an army spokesman said.

...Most of the violence is directed at Christians, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a United Kingdom-based human rights group. A delegation visiting in April determined that Christians are targeted in 75 percent of the attacks.

...There are many reports of Indonesian security forces taking part in attacks against Christians, CSW's Baroness Caroline Cox told Religion Today. She called on the Indonesian government to allow an international team of human rights workers to investigate the charges, and has brought the issue before the British Parliament.

...The Lashkar Jihad, a Muslim paramilitary group, is waging war to purge Christians and establish a Muslim state, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. The group has a training camp on Java and claims to have 10,000 soldiers ready to invade the Moluccas.

...Politics, not just religion, motivates the group, according to news reports. Some analysts believe it is connected to the former Suharto regime that wants to distract the new government from investigating and prosecuting alleged abuses. The Lashkar Jihad has connections to Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states, others say.

...Two thousand Lashkar Jihad soldiers are attacking Christian villages. Troops coordinate attacks from the sea and land, driving out residents, burning their homes and churches, and preventing them from returning, according to CSW. Village after village reportedly has been cleansed of Christians since May.

...The jihad troops pack high-powered weapons, CSW reported. As many as 200 Christians in Duma village on Halmaherra died in an attack last week, and more than 60 died and a Christian university was razed this week, according to news reports.

...The attacks are vicious, said Cox, who said she spoke with many survivors. "We must emphasize the horrendous nature [of the attacks] and the atrocities committed." Men and children are being murdered and women raped, she said.

...More than 270,000 Christians are displaced. They have been driven out of the Banda islands in the south and Ternate, Tidore, and parts of Halmahera in the north. "They are living in the jungle in bad conditions, inadequate shelter, food, and medical care. Their situation is desperate," Cox said.

...Roving mobs fight pitched battles on Ambon, the capital, John Barr of the Uniting Church of Australia said. Three churches and a hospital have been burned since last week, and combatants have stockpiled weapons and ammunition, determined to fight to the end, he said.

..."No one knows how many died on Ambon today and no one knows how many will die tonight," Barr said. "Please pray that this madness will stop."

...The Moluccas once was a model of religious tolerance. About 90 percent of Indonesia is Muslim, but for centuries the population of the Moluccas was evenly split between Muslims and Christians, according to news reports.

...The Christian and Muslim populations were mostly nominal and religious differences were not a problem until the Suharto regime pursued Islamization by relocating more Muslims to the region, according to CSW. Christians were eased out of powerful positions and began to experience discrimination, it reported.

...Most Indonesian Muslims don't support the jihad, according to news reports. Major Islamic groups in Jakarta have distanced themselves from the Lashkar Jihad and are supporting president Wahid's calls for peace. Moderate Muslims have tried to help their Christian neighbors. A number have died helping them protect their homes and churches, Cox said.


Religion Today - June 28, 2000

Back to: The latest page