Attacks on Christians in eastern Indonesia resume

Thursday, September 28, 2000

28 September 2000 (Newsroom) -- Dozens of Christians have been killed in renewed attacks by extremist Muslim warriors in Indonesia's eastern province of Maluku. At least 32 people died in an attack on the Ambon island village of Hative Besar, according to news reports.

The fighting broke more than two months of relative calm after violent offensives on Christian villages in May and June that drove more than 1,000 people from Maluku to neighboring provinces.

Witnesses say that Indonesian military forces joined in the Tuesday attack on Hative Besar, led by hundreds of white-clad jihad warriors. The fighters assaulted the village with mortars, razing 60 houses, according to the Washington, D.C. human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC). On Sunday in Hative Besar an attack during church services killed at least 10 and wounded several more. Also, the Ambon island villages of Suli and Galala were attacked by residents of neighboring villages, forcing many Christians to seek shelter at the Halong Naval Base near the city of Ambon, ICC said.

On September 20, jihad warriors attacked the villages of Sirsori Islam, Ulat, Iha, Nolot, Ihamahu, and Pia on the island of Saparua. Several homes were burned and a church was destroyed in Pia. More violence is expected in the coming weeks, the monitoring group said.

Many of the Muslim fighters are believed to be part of the Laskar Jihad, or Banner of Holy War, which sent thousands of trained troops to the eastern island chain in the spring. Fundamentalist Muslims meeting in Jakarta in April declared a holy war against Christians. Many were angered by the deaths of Muslims in sectarian clashes. More than 4,000 people have died in the Maluku conflict since January 1999, and some 350,000 have been displaced. Though Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Maluku's population of Christians has been about the same as Muslims.

A recently translated Laskar Jihad guidebook indicates that the group's goal is to protect Indonesia from what they believe is a Zionist conspiracy against the Islamic faith, led by the United States and the United Nations, ICC said. The book’s author, Ustadz Ja’far Umar Tholib, states: "When our nation’s integrity and the Islamic religion are threatened by the infidel, the Jews, and the Christians, each Muslim is required to go on jihad, fighting wholeheartedly, sacrificing his body, soul, and possessions."

On Wednesday, six Maluku Christians broke into the Swiss embassy in Jakarta to raise awareness of the conflict. The six say that want a United Nations force in Maluku similar to the one deployed in East Timor. The group said in a written statement it was concerned the fighting would become a "gradual ethnic cleansing."

In July a delegation of Maluku church leaders went to Europe to plea for intervention. Indonesia's state-appointed National Commission for Human Rights also has called for U.N. peacekeeping troops.

In response to the renewed fighting, the All-Maluku Protestant Church council has called for this week to be a time of prayer and fasting.