Indonesian Christians in fear after attacks and beheadings - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 20, 2005

Indonesian Christians in fear after attacks and beheadings

-20/11/05

Christians and foreigners living in many parts of Indonesia, the worldís most populous Muslim nation, are increasingly fearful for their safety following the Bali bombings and a series of brutal religious attacks over the past few weeks.

On Saturday police in Sulawesi announced that two young women had been attacked on Friday by assailants on motorbikes armed with machetes. A 20-year-old woman died and her friend was injured.

The authorities say that it is too early to tell if the latest attack was linked to the deadly sectarian unrest simmering between the region's majority Muslim and minority Christian communities.

The conflict began in 2001 when by rumours that a Muslim girl had been raped by a Christian attracting the widespread attention of Indonesia's militant Islamists.

Since then combatants from outlawed groups such as Laksar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiyah travelled to Poso with arms and, military training from Afghanistan. Some Christian groups have also acquired weapons, but say this is purely for self-defence.

Thousands have died and more than 50,000 have fled over the past four years. In May a bomb in Poso's largest Christian market killed 22 and injured 70 people. A second bombing last week critically injured a young mother who was among 11 Christian passengers in a van.

In Bekasi, West Java, 500 members of three churches closed down by Islamist militants held a street service two weeks ago, but were confronted by a mob of 200 extremists. Both sides are now taking the dispute to the courts.

Three weeks ago, four cousins from the tightly-knit Christian community were assaulted as they walked to the Central Sulawesi Christian Church High School Three of the girls were beheaded. The youngest survived, despite deep machete wounds on her neck.

The headless bodies of the women were dumped beside a busy nearby road. A day after one of the funerals, two other Christian girls were shot by masked men as they walked to a Girl Scouts' meeting. They are still in a critical condition.

Mainstream Muslims have denounced the atrocities, but there is general mistrust of churches because of their rapid growth in recent years. The Christian population is some 21 million out of a total of 210 million.

Radical groups have escalated campaigns to prevent the building of new churches. They are also targeting the influx of Balinese Hindus to major cities such as Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

In April last year shootings of Christians were reported in the Poso Pesisir district on Sulawesi. In May 2004, the World Council of Churches called on the Indonesian government to put an end to religious violence between Muslims and Christians in the Malukus.

Indonesiaís president has condemned such attacks, but critics say that the police and the army do little to prevent them.

Most of the countryís Muslims practice a peaceful version of the faith. But attacks against Christians have increased since the end of ex-dictator Suhartoís repression in 1998, and amid a global rise in Islamic radicalism.

[Also on Ekklesia: Church congregation attacked in Indonesia;
Christians remember dead after Indonesia bombings; Muslims condemn Indonesian church attacks; Indonesian president in call for religious tolerance;
Christians face proselytism charges in Indonesia; Churches call on Indonesian Government to address Malukus violence; Church agency condemns Indonesian human rights decision]

Indonesian Christians in fear after attacks and beheadings

-20/11/05

Christians and foreigners living in many parts of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, are increasingly fearful for their safety following the Bali bombings and a series of brutal religious attacks over the past few weeks.

On Saturday police in Sulawesi announced that two young women had been attacked on Friday by assailants on motorbikes armed with machetes. A 20-year-old woman died and her friend was injured.

The authorities say that it is too early to tell if the latest attack was linked to the deadly sectarian unrest simmering between the region's majority Muslim and minority Christian communities.

The conflict began in 2001 when by rumours that a Muslim girl had been raped by a Christian attracting the widespread attention of Indonesia's militant Islamists.

Since then combatants from outlawed groups such as Laksar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiyah travelled to Poso with arms and, military training from Afghanistan. Some Christian groups have also acquired weapons, but say this is purely for self-defence.

Thousands have died and more than 50,000 have fled over the past four years. In May a bomb in Poso's largest Christian market killed 22 and injured 70 people. A second bombing last week critically injured a young mother who was among 11 Christian passengers in a van.

In Bekasi, West Java, 500 members of three churches closed down by Islamist militants held a street service two weeks ago, but were confronted by a mob of 200 extremists. Both sides are now taking the dispute to the courts.

Three weeks ago, four cousins from the tightly-knit Christian community were assaulted as they walked to the Central Sulawesi Christian Church High School Three of the girls were beheaded. The youngest survived, despite deep machete wounds on her neck.

The headless bodies of the women were dumped beside a busy nearby road. A day after one of the funerals, two other Christian girls were shot by masked men as they walked to a Girl Scouts' meeting. They are still in a critical condition.

Mainstream Muslims have denounced the atrocities, but there is general mistrust of churches because of their rapid growth in recent years. The Christian population is some 21 million out of a total of 210 million.

Radical groups have escalated campaigns to prevent the building of new churches. They are also targeting the influx of Balinese Hindus to major cities such as Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

In April last year shootings of Christians were reported in the Poso Pesisir district on Sulawesi. In May 2004, the World Council of Churches called on the Indonesian government to put an end to religious violence between Muslims and Christians in the Malukus.

Indonesia's president has condemned such attacks, but critics say that the police and the army do little to prevent them.

Most of the country's Muslims practice a peaceful version of the faith. But attacks against Christians have increased since the end of ex-dictator Suharto's repression in 1998, and amid a global rise in Islamic radicalism.

[Also on Ekklesia: Church congregation attacked in Indonesia;
Christians remember dead after Indonesia bombings; Muslims condemn Indonesian church attacks; Indonesian president in call for religious tolerance;
Christians face proselytism charges in Indonesia; Churches call on Indonesian Government to address Malukus violence; Church agency condemns Indonesian human rights decision]

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