Indonesia Orders Tighter Security for Churches this Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2003

by Sarah Page

DUBLIN, December 22 (Compass) -- Police in Indonesia pledged today to provide tighter security for churches during Christmas and New Year celebrations, after one of their own was arrested in connection with the murder of a Christian village chief on the island of Sulawesi.

Central Sulawesi police chief Aryanto Sutadi confirmed yesterday that Second Brigadier Efendi had admitted to playing a role in violent attacks against Christians.

Efendi is specifically accused of involvement in the November murder of Carminalis Ndele, the 48-year-old Christian chief of Pinedapa village, Poso district.

“Efendi has engaged in several cases of violence in Poso, including the murder of Carminalis Ndele,” Sutadi told reporters from The Jakarta Post.

Ndele was picked up by men who were apparently familiar to him on November 1, as he returned from a day’s work at his plantation. Nothing more was seen or heard of Ndele until his head was found in a black plastic bag, dropped outside a petrol station in Poso on November 4.

The pastor’s body was later found near Masani village on the Poso coast, church sources reported.

The motive for the murder soon emerged. Second Brigadier Efendi had close ties to Andi Makassau, an activist who was recently arrested on charges of embezzling funds set aside for refugee aid.

The Indonesian government had allocated 1.192 billion rupiah ($127,800) to 400 refugee families in Poso. Efendi and Makassau were among those responsible for distributing the funds.

By August, only 500 million rupiah ($53,615) had been disbursed. Each refugee family was allocated 2.5 million rupiah ($268).

According to witnesses, Ndele refused to accept money from Makassau and Efendi after he realized some of the funds were missing, The Jakarta Post reported.

His refusal forced the embezzlers to make a decision to cover up the theft of the funds. Efendi has since admitted to “picking up the victim (Ndele) to be murdered,” according to Sutadi. Makassau admitted to arranging the killing.

Under interrogation, Makassau also said Efendi had loaned him a gun for use in a previous attack on Bethany Church in Poso in November. He claimed Efendi had charged him 500,000 rupiah ($54) for the use of the gun.

Efendi’s arrest may be the first step in halting a series of violent attacks carried out against Christian churches and individuals in Central Sulawesi over the past year.

Assailants attacked two churches in the town of Palu, Central Sulawesi, on December 12, injuring at least three people. A bomb exploded at Emanuel church in downtown Palu in the early evening, while gunmen almost simultaneously opened fire on the congregation of Anugerah church in the city’s south. (See Compass Direct, “Two Indonesian Churches Attacked, Three People Injured,” December 14, 2004.)

A report in The Jakarta Post on December 21 said police had identified the caliber of the rifle used in the attack on Anugerah church and the chemicals used in the bombing of Emanuel church. However, at press time there were no immediate suspects.

Following Efendi’s arrest, Indonesian police pledged tighter security for churches over the Christmas season. Bomb squads will comb churches for explosive materials before Christmas services are held. Some churches will also be equipped with metal detectors, a police spokesman told The Jakarta Post.

Pastors in South Sulawesi in particular will be tightly guarded by police officers. South Sulawesi province is home to 683 churches.

Police officers in Bandung, West Java, said they will increase security at 36 churches in the city, providing metal detectors to some of the larger churches. Following the recent discovery of crude homemade bombs on a bus, Bandung police will deploy about 7,200 officers in tighter security measures for churches, shopping malls and other public meeting places over the Christmas season.

In Medan, some 2,600 police will be deployed at 529 churches in the city during Christmas services. Officers have also been ordered to guard churches in surrounding districts.