Indonesian Man Shot in Church

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bombs found in Sulawesi and Ambon; pig farms attacked by Muslim youth.
by Sarah Page

DUBLIN, October 27 (Compass) -- Around 9:30 p.m. on October 21, snipers shot and injured Hans Sanipi, 25, custodian of the Tabernakel Pentecostal Church in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Sanipi was speaking with several other people in front of the church when two men on a motorbike passed and shot randomly into the crowd.

Christians and Muslims alike are speculating why police have not yet found the mysterious “drive-by killers” who have murdered at least five Christians and injured 11 others since April 2004.

Mona Saroinsong, coordinator of the CC-SAG Crisis Center in North Sulawesi, pointed out that in “almost every corner of Poso city, there is a police or military post. Why can’t the security forces find the actors?”

A Christian leader who preferred not to be named commented, “It could be that the police have some of their own men involved, or they are afraid to deal with the problem in case the military are somehow behind all this. I don’t know -- we’re still in the dark.”

Accusations of police and military involvement in the sectarian conflicts of Sulawesi and neighboring Ambon have been widespread since the conflicts erupted in the late 1990’s. Despite peace accords signed in December 2001 and February 2002, sporadic violence continues between Muslim and Christian communities in Sulawesi and the Maluku islands.

On October 24, three days after Hans Sanipi was shot, residents found a cache of 123 homemade bombs in a Muslim cemetery in Poso, the Jakarta Post reported. According to ABC Radio Australia, the bombs were found after bulldozers cleared shrubs to enlarge the cemetery.

Poso Police Chief Abdi Darma said the bombs were filled with shrapnel, including nails and sharpened metal. No comment or speculation was made on the identity of those who had stockpiled the weapons.

On the same day, a bomb threat was made against the Bank Modern Express in neighboring Ambon island.

Two days earlier on October 22, Christians found a suitcase containing 15 homemade bombs in the Baileo Oikumene building, adjacent to the Protestant Maranatha church in Ambon city. A report by Asia News claimed similar devices were found at nearby Silo church, the oldest Protestant church in the city, on October 20.

The Amboina Diocese Crisis Center reported that the bombs were simple devices with low explosive potential. However, church members were disturbed at the finding. Sectarian clashes over the past five years have claimed thousands of lives on the island. The violence abated somewhat in 2003, but residents fear a new outbreak that may lead to more bloodshed.

Police Chief Commander Brig. Gen. Aditya Warman told members of the Amboina Crisis Center that he believed certain individuals in Jakarta had hired people in Ambon to carry out these terrorist threats, “hoping -- for whatever reason -- for a resumption of the Malukus conflict.”

Meanwhile, members of the South Tatura Muslim youth organization in Palu, Central Sulawesi, launched their own attack on October 20, targeting pig farms operated by Christians.

The pig farms are an affront to Muslims who consider pork to be “unclean.” Muslim residents had previously filed objections with the local government, and the farmers were ordered to relocate further away from residential areas, but the orders were ignored.

Youths carrying spears, machetes and wooden sticks attacked several sheds and accused the farmers of polluting the Palu river.

The Jakarta Post reported that about 20 pigs were slaughtered in the attack. Farmers estimated total losses of around 75 million rupiah ($8,244); farm property was badly damaged, and each pig was worth 600,000 to 800,000 rupiah ($66 to $88).

The leader of the youth organization, Abdul Haris, defended the move and said the odor of the pig farms was offensive, “especially during Ramadan.”

This year’s observance of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, began on October 15 and will end on November 12.