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New Year’s church bombings show Indonesia Christians still in danger

JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–Although troops prevented a threatened massacre of Christian refugees in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, a series of church bombings on New Year’s Day proves extremist Muslim militias still pose a serious danger to Christians in the province, even after a Dec. 20 peace accord was signed.

In Central Sulawesi’s capital, Palu, midnight bombs exploded simultaneously at three churches. A fourth exploded later in the day as worshippers gathered at another church for a service.

Miraculously, no one was hurt in the midnight blasts and only two were injured, even though about 200 worshippers were in one of the churches when the bombs went off. One policeman was killed and another injured as they attempted to remove the fourth bomb, which had been thrown through the church window by men on motorbikes.

“It was a miracle that no one in our church was killed,” Yohanes Moniaga, pastor of one of the churches bombed at midnight, told International Christian Concern, an organization that monitors persecution of Christians around the world. “As the bomb exploded, I saw people being lifted into the air. Immediately following the explosion, no one left the church. We just called on the Lord and thanked Him for His deliverance.”

Before Christmas, the Laskar Jihad Muslim militia had threatened to attack as many as 63,000 Christian refugees and residents in the city of Tentena. Thousands of militia fighters armed with automatic weapons rampaged through Christian villages in Central Sulawesi, burning churches and thousands of homes and sending residents fleeing.

A massacre was averted when the Indonesian government quickly sent about 4,500 soldiers to the predominantly Christian city. On Christmas Day, members of an elite police unit from the Indonesian army’s mobile brigade guarded churches in the city. In some places, members of Muslim organizations helped police to safeguard churches.

Tens of thousands of Christian refugees, however, remain without shelter and basic necessities.

On Dec. 20, Christian and Muslim groups signed a peace pact designed to end three years of hostilities in the area. Militia members have been surrendering weapons and police will begin a major disarmament effort later this month.

The 10-point peace accord, the fifth such agreement in recent years, promises to stop all fighting, mediate disputes and reject outside interference, including the Laskar Jihad. More than 50,000 people — mostly Christians — have been driven from their homes by the fighting.

Since mid-2000 around 1,000 people have died in religious clashes in the province. Up to five times that number have been killed in even worse Muslim-Christian violence in neighboring Maluku in recent years. Central Sulawesi and Maluku are the only parts of predominantly Muslim Indonesia to have roughly equal Christian and Muslim populations.

On Christmas Eve 2000, 19 people died in attacks on churches in nine cities.

“The situation has remained calm,” a missionary in Jakarta reported on Dec. 28. “We do need to pray that the Laskar Jihad will be removed from the area and that the Christians and Muslims of the Poso area will work together for peace. Some of the Christians in the Napu area are still holding off returning home until they feel they will be safe.”
— Encourage government officials to help stop violence against Christians in Indonesia, by faxing US Secretary of State Colin Powell at 202-261-8577 and Indonesia’s Charge d’ Affairs, T.A. Samodra Sriwidjaja, at 202-775-5365.
— Contact your congressman with the “Find Your Reps” feature at http://congress.org.
— Encourage media coverage of the atrocities in Indonesia by e-mailing [email protected] and [email protected].
— International Christian Concern web site: www.persecution.org
— Resources on persecuted Christians: http://www.erlc.com/RLiberty/Persecution/persecution.htm

    About the Author

  • Mark Kelly