'No Christmas in Malukus,' Indonesian extremists warn

By Brittany Jarvis

Christmas may be canceled in Indonesia's Maluku Islands if Muslim extremists there have their way. Threats are circulating against the use of Christmas bells or candles in the islands, particularly on Ambon, said Southern Baptist representative Charles Cole. Anyone who displays such symbols of Christmas or Christianity reportedly will be subject to punishment.

This means "basically they [Muslim extremists] don't want any Christmas celebration," Cole said.

Muslim radicals seem to have stepped up their efforts to rid Indonesia of Christianity. Tensions are heightened in part because a major Muslim holiday occurs just three days after Christmas this year.

"With this approaching holiday there seems to be an agenda to end the presence of Christians throughout the Malukus," Cole said.

As many as 500,000 Christians have been driven from their homes and more than 4,000 have been killed by Muslim "jihad" paramilitary warriors who have publicly declared they will push all Christians off the island or kill them. The fighting has forced aid organizations to leave, and food, clothing and medical care are in short supply. Christian leaders in Ambon have said they feel the world is ignoring the crisis.

Recently Muslim fighters targeted a water taxi that was transporting 12 people. All 12 passengers were shot. No information is available on their conditions. This attack follows a raid by jihad warriors on a village in Maluku during the week of Nov. 27. Fifty people, both Muslims and Christians, were killed in the bloody attack. The Associated Press reported that a national police spokesman confirmed the killings, while local government officials said they had no information about the clash.

In addition, Muslim extremists forced 700 Indonesian Christians to recant their faith under threat of death. Ninety-three Christians were murdered after they refused to convert to Islam. Jihad warriors also blocked hundreds of Christians from boarding rescue ships waiting to take them to safety.

The International Mission Board has dispatched a team to Indonesia to assess the humanitarian needs of the thousands of refugees. One such need is for housing. As Muslims invade villages, they often burn people's homes and possessions. Entire families then are forced to live in an area the size of a typical American bedroom. A church in California already has committed to send a construction team to Indonesia to build barracks for the homeless.

The most important need, however, is for prayer, Cole said. Missionaries ask churches and individuals to pray for Christians in Indonesia, especially during this time of year.

"Pray that [children] will have a sense that God has not forgotten them nor neglected them, that they can have hope in him and enjoy his presence with them," Cole said. "Remember [the elderly] as they've seen everything they've ever known destroyed ... that they might have joy within their hearts."

And as families in America gather at church for Christmas services, missionaries ask the church to pray for Christians in Indonesia who no longer have churches in which to gather. "Many of these Christians will not have a church building to celebrate Christmas," Cole said.

Contributions to hunger and relief efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians on Ambon may be sent to: International Mission Board, Hunger and Relief Fund, Ambon Refugee Relief, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230. Every dollar donated will be used entirely for relief projects.

Religion Today - December 7, 2000

Back to: The latest page