WASHINGTON (BP)–Illustrating their personal testimony with photographs and horrific video images, American workers and Indonesian atrocity victims recounted a systematic butchering of Christian civilians by Islamic warriors in Indonesia’s Moluccan islands.
“Christians I met with on the Moluccan islands witnessed their loved ones being hacked to pieces by ‘jihad warriors,'” Steven Snyder, president of International Christian Concern, a religious liberty organization, told a news conference March 9 in the U.S. Capitol, CNSNews.com reported.
“Children watched their mothers and fathers being killed in front of them,” added Snyder, who recently returned from a fact-finding visit to Indonesia.
Most of the 2 million inhabitants of approximately 1,000 Moluccan islands are Muslims who dwelt in harmony with their minority Christian neighbors until hostilities broke out in early 1999. Since then, 5,000 to 8,000 people have died in conflicts between the two communities.
In North Molucca, 168 churches were destroyed, and 34 mosques were destroyed in counter attacks, Snyder reported. In the same period, among both Christians and Muslims, more than 500,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
Snyder was taken into custody by Indonesian security forces on the Moluccan Islands and together with other foreigners was forcibly deported out of the area. Later he read accounts in Jakarta newspapers of foreigners being deported for spying on the Indonesian military. Snyder said he previously cleared all of his travel plans with security forces.
Snyder managed to smuggle out of the country a compact disk used by the jihad movement to solicit young Muslim recruits in their effort to launch attacks on Christians.
The CD shows marching jihad warriors clad in white, getting into boats and heading in mass for the islands.
“This supports many reports from Christians who said ‘jihad warriors’ came by the thousands in boats and invaded their islands and attacked their villages and showed no mercy,” Snyder said.
Snyder showed photos of a Christian family of six, each of whom was forcibly circumcised by Muslim militants; beheadings; burned churches; and a picture of an elderly Christian woman who survived after her face was shot away by Muslim gunmen, CNSNews.com reported.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held hearings in February on the violence, which Snyder and others say stems from past government policies, economic tensions and power struggles between the military and supporters of ousted President Suharto.
Attempts to move toward more democratic forms of government have been seen by Muslims as attacks on Islam, and as secularizing Indonesia. The groups have been pressing for Islamic law. The jihad movement is also taking advantage of the ethnic clashes that took place in Timor and Java, which spread to the north Moluccan Islands.
“The militants want to turn it into a religious war,” Snyder said.
Clashes intensified when the democratic government tried to enact policies to relocate Muslims from overcrowded areas to less-crowded, predominantly Christian islands.
“Some of the jihad groups saw this as an opportunity to destabilize the government and push forward their program for conversion to Islam for all Indonesia,” Snyder said.
ICC and Christian Aid, another civil rights group, have launched a campaign to rescue more than 7,000 villagers under threat from the jihad. One rescue operation has been carried out by boat and another 22 missions are planned.
The groups are raising $1.2 million to evacuate and resettle families.
The Indonesian security forces have participated alongside “jihad warriors,” and in some areas the security forces are actually serving as security for the jihad, who have surrounded Christian communities, Snyder and other workers reported.
“We’ve received numerous testimonies like that,” Snyder said. “The Indonesian government has not been able to control their own military. The local police, on the other hand, have tried to protect the Christians.”
During his visit, Snyder heard many testimonies of excellent neighborly relations between Muslims and Christians, including instances of when Muslims helped Christians build churches and Christians helped Muslims build mosques.
“Many Muslims were afraid that if they didn’t side with the jihad extremists, they’d be seen as sympathizers and would themselves fall victim,” Snyder said.
Morahan is a senior staff writer for CNSNews.com. Used by permission.