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Southern Baptists watch, pray as Indonesia erupts in turmoil


JAKARTA, Indonesia (BP)–Southern Baptist families in Indonesia May 15 were prayerfully watching developments during a fourth day of rioting in the capital city of Jakarta.
They were considering whether to evacuate with other American business and diplomatic personnel, a spokesman for the families said.
“They have the option to leave, and members of two or three families were to leave Friday evening (May 15),” the spokesman said. “We have been monitoring the situation for several weeks, and if events reach a certain level we will tell them to leave.
“At this point everybody understands they are free to do what they believe is best. Most of the families have not decided to take the option yet.”
Telephone lines have remained open, and Southern Baptist workers based in Singapore have been able to keep in touch with families in Indonesia. “All of the people we relate to in Indonesia are accounted for and OK,” the spokesman said.
At least 250 people were reported dead in riots protesting austerity measures imposed by the government of President Suharto, according to the Associated Press. Most of the dead were looters caught in fires at four Jakarta shopping malls set ablaze by other rioters.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department advised Americans to leave Jakarta and Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. The State Department chartered two airplanes to evacuate Americans unable to secure commercial flights from Jakarta. American corporations like Mobil, Citicorp and McDonald’s were pulling their employees out en masse.
An intercessory prayer leader encouraged Southern Baptists to pray not only for Southern Baptists living in Indonesia, but also for the people of the country, which is the world’s largest Muslim nation.
“Many Indonesians have lost their lives, and we need to lift this country to God for his gracious care,” said Randy Sprinkle. “Pray that God would bring an end to the violence and work these situations together to bring great good for his kingdom.
“Ask God to use this crisis to help people realize their spiritual emptiness, and pray that believers would not be intimidated but instead would boldly witness to their neighbors and friends about their need for Christ.”