by John Lindner
Christians in the Maluku provincial capital of Ambon are appealing to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to send peacekeeping forces in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
A group of terrorists wearing camouflage uniforms and black facemasks terrorized Soya village near Ambon in a pre-dawn raid on Sunday, April 28. Christian Aid’s contact who had special permission to conduct a Bible training seminars in that area last week, said the terrorists used mortars, hand grenades and M-16 rifles in a raid that began at 3:30 a.m. and lasted an hour and a half.
The raid killed 14 people, including a three-year-old girl. Terrorists had thrust a bayonet up her nose and ripped open her stomach. One mother was beheaded and others were shot while sleeping on their beds. Additional bodies were found in the ruins of about 30 homes of Christians burned to the ground. Christian Aid’s contact said that when the terrorists fled they laid landmines and grenades tied to trees with tripwires that killed three more of the villagers who pursued them.
The attack followed a speech by Jafar Umar Thalib, supreme commander of the militant group Laskar Jihad, at the Alfatah Mosque Friday evening April 26 that urged Muslims to take up “guns and spears and daggers” and fight the Christians. Thalilb, of Yemeni descent, fought with the mujahedeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and rallied Indonesian Muslims to fight against alleged Christian separatists in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia in April 2000. At least 7000 people have died in the ensuing violence.
Thalib gave another speech broadcast on the radio last Thursday, May 2, in which he asked Muslims to close their shops and prepare bombs and weapons for civil war. Members of the state parliament and leaders of the Christian community called upon authorities to arrest him, which they did on Saturday, May 4, at the airport in Surabaya when he returned from Ambon.
That sparked another reaction from the radical Muslims. Christian Aid’s contact said he was concluding a seminar Saturday night when “all hell broke loose as gunshots resounded and bombs began exploding.” Members of the congregation dispersed and the seminar leader and his companions began making their way to the hospital to pray for the wounded.
A bomb exploded just 100 feet behind their vehicle-barely ten seconds after they had passed the spot-and wounded many people. As they got to the hospital, the body of an 18-year-old young man was being carried out; he had died from wounds suffered in the mortar attack during the church meeting. Then those wounded in the mortar explosion began to arrive with blood streaming down their bodies. The team from the church prayed with many frightened residents, including one terrified young mother who had lost her three-year-old daughter and her mother.
“As the fighting rages on and many more innocent victims are being slain for their faith in Christ,” the contact wrote Saturday night, “how long will it be before we truly wake up to the terror that is being perpetrated in the name of Allah against the Christians in Maluku?”
The recent violence shattered a delicate peace accord between Muslims and Christians authored by the government and signed on February 12, which Thalib ridiculed. Frustrated Christians, who had turned in their weapons according to the agreement only to be attacked as they slept, and believing that their own government could not protect them, united to appeal to U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan to send in peacekeeping forces. The governor of Maluku, Sale Lutconsina, was reported to have said over the weekend that the Indonesian military had actually sabotaged his efforts to stop the conflict, the New York Times reported yesterday.
Meanwhile, Christian Aid is joining others in building homes for Christians whose homes were destroyed by Laskar Jihad terrorists, and in providing food and medical aid for 54,000 displaced persons gathered in North Sulawesi. Altogether, over 700,000 people are surviving in relocation centers as a result of the violence.