Indonesia: Christians Outraged Over Arrest of Their Leader

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Christians in Indonesia are outraged over the arrest of one of their leaders, Renaldy Damanik, General Secretary of the Christian Synod in Central Sulawesi and a hard-working, long-time peace advocate.

Damanik was attempting to evacuate Peleru village after an attack on it and a neighboring village in mid-August killed three Christians. His car was stopped by police and searched after he was ordered to step 150 feet away. Five days later, the media reported police had found 14 illegal guns and 144 rounds of ammunition in his car. "The first I knew about the firearms in my car was when I read it in the mass media of 19 August," he is reported as saying in the Indonesian-language Tempo Interaktif on September 10.

When police came by helicopter to arrest him, the people of Tentena massed around him and averted his arrest. The Central Police in Jakarta then summoned him to appear as a witness. Under those conditions, Damanik flew to Jakarta privately and turned himself in to authorities as a witness. When he did so, police arrested him as a suspect. Full details are found on the Jubilee website

"Christians in Central Sulawesi are outraged by Renaldy's arrest," said a release yesterday by the Barnabas Fund in the UK, "as they regard him as a man of peace. He was a signatory of Malino peace agreement in December 2001 and has worked hard to end the violence." They believe the real reason he was arrested is because he spoke critically of Indonesian authorities' failure to stop the violence perpetrated by Islamic radicals. According to a message received today, the Jakarta Post Saturday morning quoted the National Police Chief as saying, "The legal process [against Danamik] would continue against him as we are certain that our allegations are true."

According to the Barnabas Fund, Damanik was interrogated intensively by the police to the extent that he collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital. His treatment stands in stark contrast to the way authorities treated Laskar Jihad leader Ja'far Umar Thalib, arrested in May for inciting hatred and violence against Christians in Ambon and throughout the Malukus and for insulting the Indonesian president. While in jail he was visited by the Indonesian vice-president. The judge postponed his trial in August because Thalib looked pale. "I see that you're pale," Barnabas Fund reported the judge as saying. "We don't want to examine someone who is unhealthy...I hope you can get well soon." And postponed the trial to a later date.

Christians are asked to pray for Renaldy Damanik's wellbeing, and that somehow the truth about Muslim-perpetrated violence will become so public and obvious to authorities that they will have no choice but to deal with it.

Four persons were killed and 300 buildings were burned in the village of Haruku in Central Maluku last week, and the violence spread to Ambon where one person was killed and one house burned. The incident was triggered by a dispute between youths of Pelauw and Kailolo villages in Haruku subdistrict on September 14 that killed three people and injured two others, according to the Jakarta Press. Further details were not available.

Violence in the Malukus and Central Sulawesi has left 6000 dead and 750,000 homeless. Christian Aid is sending funds to provide food and housing for those rendered homeless by the violence. More stories and how to help are found at the Christian Aid web site