Papuan Christians Fear Onslaught in Indonesia

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

2 July 2002

Christians in the Indonesian province of Papua (Irian Jaya) are fearful that a violent campaign could be unleashed against them later this year as Laskar Jihad Islamic militants continue to flood into the province with the apparent collusion of the authorities.

A recent report from Australia's Uniting Church, details the concerns of local Christians, who make up over 70% of the province's population. A number of Laskar Jihad military training camps are now situated in the province and military instruction is now taking place quite openly in the compounds of some mosques every afternoon. In the area of Fak Fak over 175 boats carrying Laskar Jihad personnel and equipment are said to have arrived along the coast since April. Meanwhile several Christians have reported discovering stockpiles of weapons which they fear could be used against them later this year. A number of Pakistani and Afghan mujahideen are thought to have come to join in the jihad against local Christians have been sighted. Laskar Jihad's magazine, which contains articles attacking Christians, Jews and the US, is now being sold openly in markets in Papua, and T-shirts, DVDs and books on Osama bin Laden are also on sale.

Laskar Jihad is reportedly forming links with local authorities, police and army units, and with the pro-Jakarta militia Satgas Merah Putih which opposes Papuan calls for independence from Indonesia. Laskar Jihad is also believed to be insinuating itself with the local Muslim population, although the majority of Papuan Muslims still reject the Jihad's presence as a dangerous destabilising factor in an already extremely tense region. Local Christians believe the failure of police and army units to stop Laskar Jihad from expanding its military campaign into Papua implies complicity in the Jihad's activities. Four Laskar Jihad members carrying homemade guns were recently seized by Christians and handed over to the authorities. No action was taken against them. Others who have reported Laskar Jihad activities to the authorities say that they have been harassed, threatened with arrest themselves, and even received intimidating phone calls late at night.

Melanesian West Papua was annexed by Indonesia in 1963, since which time the majority-Christian Papuan people have struggled for their independence from repressive Indonesian rule. The arrival of the Laskar Jihad, which since May 2000 has been responsible for murdering, or forcibly converting and circumcising thousands of Christians in a genocidal holy war in Indonesia's Moluccas and Sulawesi regions, has prompted fears that the group could be used as a militia by the military to repress the local Melanesian Christian population. During its occupation of East Timor Indonesia gained international notoriety for allowing pro-Indonesian militias to brutally terrorise the local Timorese population with impunity. Now Papua's Christians fear that Laskar Jihad will be given a free hand to do the same there.


Pray for wisdom, guidance and a spirit of mercy and compassion for Indonesian political, police and military leaders in Papua at this time. Pray that they will enforce the law justly and with equality, that Laskar Jihad will not be tolerated or allowed to carry out any violent attacks against Christians.

Pray for protection for the mainly Christian people of Papua. Pray that every family, every home and every church will be kept safe and free from violence.