BBC to examine beheadings of Christian schoolgirls - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
December 20, 2005

BBC to examine beheadings of Christian schoolgirls

-20/12/05

The BBC's Newsnight programme will tonight look at the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia.

Reporter Rachel Harvey will report from the country amid fresh fears of attacks on Christian buildings over the seasonal period and moves by the authorities to stamp out religious violence.

Three girls were beheaded and another badly injured as they walked to a Christian school in Indonesia.

They were walking through a cocoa plantation near the city of Poso in central Sulawesi province when they were attacked.

This is an area that has a long history of religious violence between Muslims and Christians.

Around 85 per cent of Indonesia's 220 million people are Muslim. Christians form the second largest religious group in the country as a whole, as well as in Jakarta.

A government-brokered truce has only partially succeeded in reducing the number of incidents in recent years.

Police say the heads were found some distance from the bodies.

It is unclear what was behind the attack, but the girls attended a private Christian school and one of the heads was left outside a church leading to speculation that it might have had a religious motive.

Central Sulawesi and Poso in particular was the scene of bitter fighting between Muslims and Christians in 2001 and 2002.

More than 1,000 people were killed before a government-brokered truce.

Although the violence has been subdued, it has never gone away completely.

A bomb in May in the nearby town of Tentena, which is predominantly Christian, killed 22 people and injured over 30.

The attacks along with other blasts in recent years -- most recently on the tourist island of Bali in October when suicide bombers killed 20 people -- have been blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, a militant network intelligence experts call a Southeast Asian wing of al-Qaeda.

The fighting four years ago drew Islamic militants from all over Indonesia and many have never gone home.

Analysts say the militants have targeted central Sulawesi and believe that it could be turned into the foundation stone of an Islamic state.

Although Indonesia has been relatively calm in recent weeks, many security analysts say threats of militant attacks still run high because police have yet to catch one of the alleged masterminds of previous bombings, Malaysian-born Noordin M. Top.

Jakarta police had already said they would boost security in the capital ahead of Christmas to avoid a repeat of 2000 Christmas Eve bombings on churches in several Indonesian cities.

Around 17,000 policemen are expected to safeguard Christmas celebrations in Jakarta alone.

Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation has also recently said it will provide volunteers to help guard churches across the world's most populous Muslim nation.

A youth wing affiliated with Indonesia's largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama, some 40 million strong, said that members would guard churches for the coming Christmas festivities and it had persuaded youths from other religions to join the project.

Hidayat said the volunteers would closely collaborate with existing police operations and the churches' own security.

Police last month killed Azahari Husin, another alleged Jemaah Islamiah leader, in a shootout in East Java province.

[Also on Ekklesia: Christians remember dead after Indonesia bombings; Indonesian Muslims say violence is sin and heresy; Indonesian Christians in fear after attacks and beheadings; Finance ministers agree to freeze debts of tsunami countries including Indonesia; Church agency condemns Indonesian human rights decision; Indonesian president in call for religious tolerance]

BBC to examine beheadings of Christian schoolgirls

-20/12/05

The BBC's Newsnight programme will tonight look at the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in Indonesia.

Reporter Rachel Harvey will report from the country amid fresh fears of attacks on Christian buildings over the seasonal period and moves by the authorities to stamp out religious violence.

Three girls were beheaded and another badly injured as they walked to a Christian school in Indonesia.

They were walking through a cocoa plantation near the city of Poso in central Sulawesi province when they were attacked.

This is an area that has a long history of religious violence between Muslims and Christians.

Around 85 per cent of Indonesia's 220 million people are Muslim. Christians form the second largest religious group in the country as a whole, as well as in Jakarta.

A government-brokered truce has only partially succeeded in reducing the number of incidents in recent years.

Police say the heads were found some distance from the bodies.

It is unclear what was behind the attack, but the girls attended a private Christian school and one of the heads was left outside a church leading to speculation that it might have had a religious motive.

Central Sulawesi and Poso in particular was the scene of bitter fighting between Muslims and Christians in 2001 and 2002.

More than 1,000 people were killed before a government-brokered truce.

Although the violence has been subdued, it has never gone away completely.

A bomb in May in the nearby town of Tentena, which is predominantly Christian, killed 22 people and injured over 30.

The attacks along with other blasts in recent years -- most recently on the tourist island of Bali in October when suicide bombers killed 20 people -- have been blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, a militant network intelligence experts call a Southeast Asian wing of al-Qaeda.

The fighting four years ago drew Islamic militants from all over Indonesia and many have never gone home.

Analysts say the militants have targeted central Sulawesi and believe that it could be turned into the foundation stone of an Islamic state.

Although Indonesia has been relatively calm in recent weeks, many security analysts say threats of militant attacks still run high because police have yet to catch one of the alleged masterminds of previous bombings, Malaysian-born Noordin M. Top.

Jakarta police had already said they would boost security in the capital ahead of Christmas to avoid a repeat of 2000 Christmas Eve bombings on churches in several Indonesian cities.

Around 17,000 policemen are expected to safeguard Christmas celebrations in Jakarta alone.

Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation has also recently said it will provide volunteers to help guard churches across the world's most populous Muslim nation.

A youth wing affiliated with Indonesia's largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama, some 40 million strong, said that members would guard churches for the coming Christmas festivities and it had persuaded youths from other religions to join the project.

Hidayat said the volunteers would closely collaborate with existing police operations and the churches' own security.

Police last month killed Azahari Husin, another alleged Jemaah Islamiah leader, in a shootout in East Java province.

[Also on Ekklesia: Christians remember dead after Indonesia bombings; Indonesian Muslims say violence is sin and heresy; Indonesian Christians in fear after attacks and beheadings; Finance ministers agree to freeze debts of tsunami countries including Indonesia; Church agency condemns Indonesian human rights decision; Indonesian president in call for religious tolerance]

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