Indonesian Pastor Still Missing

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Police fail to find Jokran Ratu’s kidnappers.

by Steven Nasta

JAKARTA, April 5, 2005 (Compass) -- The family of the Rev. Jokran Ratu, kidnapped four months ago on a remote Indonesian island, still does not know whether he is dead or alive. No ransom demand has been received and police have not apprehended the kidnappers.

Ratu was the pastor of a Gereja Pantekosta di Indonesia (GPdI) church in Labuang village on Buru island in the Malukus.

At 2 a.m. on the night of December 3, 2004, eight men knocked on the door of Ratu’s house. When the door was opened, masked intruders pointed a gun at Ratu and his wife and asked for money.

According to the Rev. Henry Lolaen, head of the GPdI in Ambon, Ratu had just received a donation of 10,000,000 rupiah ($1,086) for the construction of a new church building.

Ratu told the intruders that he had already deposited the funds in two bank accounts, at the Bank Mandiri and the Bank Negara Indonesia. The intruders asked for the two bank deposit books, which were later found lying on the ground in Labuang village.

The kidnappers then took Ratu away with them, assuring his wife that they intended to release him.

Villagers who later searched for their pastor found only the red T-shirt he was wearing that night, marked with what appeared to be three bullet holes, abandoned on the beach. (See Compass Direct, “Indonesian Pastor Kidnapped, Still Missing,” December 13, 2004.)

Police arrested one suspect immediately after the kidnapping. However, the man was released after questioning and police have taken no further action against him.

The trail has since gone cold, although Lolaen said investigations were still underway. “We always ask the police whether they have made progress or found Mr. Jokran’s body,” he told Compass.

Other sources in Ambon say police have made no real progress in tracing the culprits. The province has now handed the case to police officers on Buru island, a sure sign that finding Ratu’s kidnappers is no longer a high priority.

The only hope for a resolution is a promise from Lieutenant Colonel Hadi Widodo, the new police commander of Buru island, that he intends to pursue the matter further.

Lolaen also said several mysterious shooting incidents had occurred in the Malukus since the kidnapping.

“It seems there is an effort to maintain conflict in the Malukus,” he explained. “But now people realize what it will lead to, so they don’t react anymore.”

On March 31, a report issued by the United Nations Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Indonesia noted that sporadic violence had continued in the Malukus, and that tension between Christians and Muslims in Ambon, the provincial capital, remained high.

Violence between Muslims and Christians in the Malukus first erupted in January 1999, partly as the result of a government resettlement policy. The Malukus were previously a majority-Christian region, but huge numbers of Muslim settlers changed the ratio and led to bitter land disputes and thousands of deaths.

The activities of a separatist group, the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS), also inflamed tensions between Christians and Muslims on Ambon island. Muslims claimed the RMS was a Christian group, but Christian leaders repeatedly denied any association with the separatists.

RMS members still celebrate their self-proclaimed Independence Day annually on April 25. Last year, they raised banned RMS flags on this date, sparking violent clashes. At least 20 people were killed and scores of buildings -- including homes, churches and mosques -- were burned to the ground.

Fortunately, the incident did not provoke residents in other parts of the Malukus to retaliate. Many Malukans are tired of violence and want to see a permanent peace return to the islands.

Police chiefs have sent an elite response team to Ambon to prevent further violence on this year’s RMS anniversary.

According to Lolaen, conditions on Buru island are relatively peaceful. Between 200 and 300 Muslim families and 75 Christian families live in separate communities on the island. Ratu’s church is just one of 20 small GPdI groups that meet regularly for worship.

Both Christians and Muslims remain baffled by Ratu’s kidnapping. However as time passes, a resolution to the case seems increasingly unlikely.

* In a previous Compass report, our sources identified the victim as both Jarok and Jokran. We have now established that his given name was Jokran. Compass regrets the error.