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Southern Baptists called to prayer for persecuted believers in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–Southern Baptists have been called to urgent prayer for fellow Christians suffering from Muslim extremist attacks in the Moluccas islands of Indonesia.

More than 4,000 people — most of them Christians — have died in the fighting that broke out in January 1999 after a dispute between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim passenger.

A missionary with a heart for the people of Indonesia urged Southern Baptists to pray urgently for peace in the islands, for believers experiencing persecution and that the turmoil will create opportunities for unreached people groups to hear the good news of God’s love.

A minority of Muslims have declared a “jihad,” or holy war, against all Christians in the islands, and are receiving support from Muslim radicals from other parts of Indonesia and the world.

With 85 percent of its 210 million people following Islam, Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country, though the population of the Moluccas is almost evenly split between Muslims and Christians.

Thousands of trained jihad warriors have arrived in the Moluccas from Java. Christians, unable to match the firepower of the warriors are fleeing to refugee camps, where they are being encircled by the Muslim radicals.

Jihad warriors attack ships and trucks attempting to supply more than 34,000 refugees in the camps.

A ferry carrying more than 500 refugees fleeing the violence sank June 29 after departing from Halmahera island, scene of some of the worst attacks. At least 100 Baptists were among the victims. Authorities are uncertain whether the ferry was destroyed by Muslim extremists.

Reports indicate the Indonesian military in the region has divided between Christians and Muslim factions.

The government in Jakarta initially refused to allow intervention from the United Nations or any other outside source. International Red Cross efforts were actively opposed by military units.

On July 17, however — a day after television reports showed members of the Indonesian army assisting Muslims in an attack against a Christian neighborhood — Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said some international assistance, such as equipment or logistical help, may be required to end the violence.

Some observers believe the attacks against Christians are meant to cause the collapse of the Wahid government, which opposes Muslim radicals. The fall of the Wahid government would likely mean the freedom of Christians in the country would be limited.

Christians trapped in the affected area of Indonesia are in critical need of food and medical supplies. President Wahid’s announcement to consider international involvement may be the first step in bringing relief, but throughout the world Christians are being called on to pray for an end to the violence in the Moluccas.

Christians have been urged to contact their local and national government leaders to tell them they support international intervention in the Moluccas.

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen has said the United States will follow regional ally Australia’s lead in forming a policy on intervention.

“Pray for peace,” urged the missionary, whose name was withheld for security reasons. “Pray that the Prince of Peace will be known throughout the Spice Islands.

“Pray also that the Christians of the Moluccas will have their hope in heaven and that they will have the grace, endurance and patience to go through these trials.

“And pray that doors will be opened to all the unreached people groups of the Moluccas.”

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry