Indonesian Jihad fighters press on despite disarmament by police
17 April 2000 (Newsroom) — Jakarta police have disarmed and disbanded Muslims vowing to fight a holy war in the Molucca Islands where sectarian clashes in the past year have taken an estimated 3,000 lives.
According to the Jakarta Post, however, the radical Muslims say that despite the disarmament they will continue with their plan to send thousands of trained volunteers to the region at the end of the month to help “protect Muslim residents.” Christians in the islands fear that the Indonesian government can only delay what they believe is an attempt by Muslims to purge the Moluccas of Christianity, according to a report Monday from John Barr, the secretary for Indonesia for the Uniting Church of Australia.
Barr notes widespread reports that say some 3,000 Muslim men have been preparing for Jihad in Indonesia’s main island of Java, while another 7,000 are training in southeast Sulawesi.
According to news reports, clashes continue between Muslims and Christians in the town of Galela on the island of Halmahera in North Maluku province. Christians already have been driven out of the nearby islands of Ternate, Tidore, and Banda, Barr reported Monday. Christian communities have been virtually wiped out on the islands of Buru and Morotai, he said. “Much of the Protestant Church in Maluku has been destroyed, while little remains of the Evangelical Christian Church in Halmahera,” the church leader declared. “Roman Catholic communities and Pentecostal churches have suffered in a similar way.”
Barr on Sunday visited 15 Christians from the Moluccan island of Ambon who fled to Australia in mid-January by boat. The refugees, who have been granted “safe haven visas” in Adelaide until May 5, believe Muslims from other parts of Indonesia are engaged in a systematic plan to drive out Christianity and dominate the eastern region of the country. “Things have got so bad in Ambon,” one of the men told Barr, “that we simply had to get out.”
Others among the Ambonese in Australia told of “horrific events” in which Christians, including a young pregnant woman, “were herded into a compound and hacked to death.” They said that tens of thousands of people have fled into the jungle to escape attacks on villages by Muslim militia. “Security forces do nothing to stop all this,” one of the Christians told Barr. “In fact they assist the Muslims and work with them.”
Some of the Christians affirmed the claims of other witnesses who maintain that Indonesian security forces provided cover as Islamic radicals set fire to a church in Ambon on December 26. On that day, according to news reports, tensions were reignited when a Christian bus driver ran over a Muslim youth. The ensuing clashes resulted in more than 400 deaths, the worst sectarian violence since Indonesia achieved independence half a century ago, national newspapers said. In mid-January the clashes spread to other parts of the Moluccas, including the tourist resort island of Lombok, near Bali.
Many Christians and Muslims in the region insist that newcomers have disrupted centuries of peaceful coexistence between the two groups. In the past five to 10 years internal migration of Muslims has gradually made them the majority in the region. The Moluccas are 55 percent Muslim and 45 percent Christian.
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