Dec 5, 2001
By Mark Kelly
JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)--Thousands of extremist Muslim fighters armed with automatic weapons are attacking Christian villages in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, burning churches and thousands of homes and sending residents fleeing.
Perhaps as many as 63,000 Christians are trapped in the predominantly Christian city of Tentena. One missionary in Indonesia fears the "jihad warriors" will break through to Tentena and massacre the Christians who have taken refuge there.
Afghans and other foreigners are fighting alongside the Muslim militias in Sulawesi, according to news services. A policeman said he saw Muslim fighters topping civilians at roadblocks and executing those found to be Christians.
"The Christians trapped in the Tentena area are waiting for the slaughter to begin," the missionary reported. "They feel helpless as thousands flee their homes and watch their homes, schools and churches burned to the ground."
The Christians -- and even some policemen and soldiers -- have been terrified and largely defenseless, he said.
"The Christians of Poso [a nearby town] have seen the police and military flee into the forest as villages are attacked," he said. "They are getting no protection. The police stationed in the Tentena area are afraid for their lives. They have three rifles to defend against thousands of armed men with automatic rifles."
The few Christians who have organized to resist the Muslim militia are armed only with homemade rifles and bows and arrows, the missionary said. Five truckloads of Indonesian troops arrived Nov. 30 to provide protection. Their arrival apparently frustrated the advance of the Laskar Jihad on the city.
The Laskar Jihad is responsible for fighting in nearby Maluku province that has killed about 9,000 people since 1999. At least 1,000 people have been killed in Sulawesi in the past two years.
Almost 2,000 new Muslim fighters arrived in Sulawesi in the past two weeks, according to police reports.
The attacks are part of a campaign by Muslim extremists to drive out Christians from the parts of Indonesia where they are a majority and to turn Indonesia into a strict Islamic state. The country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion. While 88 percent of the population is Muslim, Christians constitute an 8 percent minority and in some places are the majority.
"In a day when the dominant message to us as Americans is that Islam is a religion of peace, the murders and horrific persecution of Indonesian Christians at the hands of Muslim Jihad warriors illuminate another reality," said Southern Baptist prayer leader Randy Sprinkle. "As we cry out to God, beseeching Him to stop the slaughter, may we also ask His mercy upon those who perpetrate such atrocities.
"Pray that, supernaturally, hatred will be countered by love, ungodly zeal by Godly grace, and violence by acts of peace, all in the Name of the Prince of Peace."
Baptist Press. Used with Permission.