Sulawesi Christians Ask Open Doors to Plead Their Cause

Monday, July 9, 2001

INDONESIA - (Open Doors, July 9, 2001) - Christian leaders in Tentena, in Indonesia’s central Sulawesi province, pleaded with Open Doors to “be our voice” in the face of increased atrocities being perpetrated against them in Poso district, known as a “second Ambon.” The most recent atrocity involved a police elite force attacking a Christian village elder and his family on June 27th. A woman neighbor, five months pregnant, was killed in the attack. When Christians went to the local police station to complain, they found all the policemen had fled.

In another incident in mid June, a Christian doctor had his ears cut off by Muslim vigilantes. Named Dr. Benny, his car was stopped by a group of people in Kayamaia, just outside Poso city. He was made to get out of his car and answer questions. When they realized he was a Christian, they beat him and cut off both his ears.

A passerby who was a former patient intervened on his behalf, pleading that he was a good man who selflessly served the community. The crowd let Dr. Benny go, and with his head pouring blood and in excruciating pain, he tried to find his ears, but he could find only one. He is now recovering in a hospital in Palu.

Christians complain they have been harassed, persecuted and forced out of the area until only the town of Tentena is safe for them. But some Christian extremists have formed militias and are hitting back. According to the Associated Press, a Christian gang killed 18 Muslims outside Poso City on July 4.

“The violence is spiraling out of control. We need the prayers and interventions of the worldwide body of Christ to help,” said a Christian leader in the area.

Open Doors holds “preparing for persecution” seminars in Tentena and throughout Indonesia, where more than 20 million Christians are under severe pressure from Muslim extremists, who want to make Indonesia a Muslim state. Local ethnic rivalries fuel the religious tensions, and violence has scorched many areas.

In May 2001, Open Doors held a seminar in Tentena, where local Christian leaders pleaded with the mission to “be our voice.”

Christian grievances in the area center on what they claim is the government’s failure to keep order and peace. They say that police and political figures often side with the extremist Muslims. The provincial government broke a promise recently to appoint a Christian “Bupati” (sub-governor) because the governor was Muslim. Another Muslim was appointed to the post even though the area is populated primarily by Christians.

Tentena is regarded as the last safe bastion for Christians in the area, and the cries for revenge are getting louder. A 2,000 strong “Red Force” Christian militia is stationed outside Poso city, although church leaders are calling for restraint. Leaders have appealed to Open Doors supporters to (a) pray that some of the Christian community will not resort to violence and to (b) pressure the Indonesian government to deal more evenhandedly with the Christian-Muslim conflict.

Over 5,000 Christians and Muslims have died as a result of the Christian-Muslim strife on Ambon in eastern Indonesia, and more than 1,000 more have died in clashes in the rest of Indonesia in the last two years.

Open Doors USA. Used with Permission.