Religious Liberty Prayer List – No. 166 – Wed 01 May 2002
———————————————- INDONESIA: VIOLENCE RESURGES IN AMBON MASSACRE ———————————————-
The Maluku region of Eastern Indonesia (formerly the Spice Islands) was once predominantly Christian, as was the West Papua region. However, President Suharto’s transmigration policy greatly changed their demographics by encouraging Javanese Muslims to migrate to these less densely populated areas. Despite some discontent, Christians, Muslims and Hindus co-existed peacefully. In Maluku, however, this peace came to an end during Ramadan, January 1999.
After Suharto resigned in May 1998, Habibi led Indonesia towards democracy. However, many Javanese elites and high ranking military who had enjoyed power and privilege under Suharto set about stealing control by instigating conflict aimed at destabilising the nation and thus encourage people to seek military leadership. So, religious violence was provoked in Ambon (the regional capital) in January 1999.
When the Islamic parties failed in the June 1999 elections, they joined in with those keen to discredit and bring down the democratically elected government. In mid 2000, thousands of Laskar Jihad militants arrived in Maluku, well armed and supported by elements of the Indonesian military. By the time 8,000 people had died and half a million had become refugees in Maluku, President Wahid was gone and Megawati Sukarnoputri remained mainly by favour of Islamic parties. For some, this was mission accomplished!
On 12 February 2002, the eleven point Malino Peace Accord was signed by 80-strong delegations from the Muslim and the Christian communities of Maluku. The Laskar Jihad, however, refused to attend the peace talks and has rejected the Accord as ‘treason’. Islamist cleric Jaffar Umar Thalib, a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan, heads up the Laskar Jihad. He oversees a network of Islamist schools in Indonesia, preaches that democracy is ‘incompatible with Islam’, and calls for Indonesia to be made an Islamic state with Sharia Law. He regards Jews, Americans and Christians as ‘belligerent infidels’ whose deaths are justified by divine imperative. Thalib is convinced there is a global conspiracy of American-led Jews and Christians to destroy Islam and all Muslims. He scorns Osama bin Laden for being too soft – a lightweight!
After Friday prayers on 26 April, Thalib urged some 5,000 Muslims outside the Al-Fatah Mosque in Ambon to rally together in holy war against the Christians. He said, ‘From today, we will no longer talk about reconciliation. Our … focus now must be preparing for war – ready your guns, spears and daggers.’ At 3:45am on Sunday 28 April, black-masked, heavily armed Islamic militants entered the Christian village of Soya (near Ambon city) as the people slept. They moved from house to house, killing up to 21 people by stabbing, decapitation or burning them alive, as well as wounding many more. Thirty homes and a Christian church were also incinerated. Whilst some attackers were seen with assault rifles and wearing military fatigues, the army denies any involvement.
While this draws attention away to Ambon, the Laskar Jihad drive with some 3000 troops in Papua steadily continues (RLP 161) in the pattern set in Maluku and Sulawesi. Church and community leaders want the Laskar Jihad expelled before strife is unleashed.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* God to protect the faith of terrified, discouraged, traumatised, grief-stricken believers in Soya and to minister to the hearts and minds of those tempted to doubt his goodness or presence.
‘In the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.’ Psalm 143:8
* strong leadership in the churches and Christian communities in Maluku and Papua, encouraging believers to hold on to faith and hope and a commitment to peace.
* the Indonesian government to commit itself to supporting the people of Maluku in their quest for peace, ensuring that those who incite hatred and violence are dealt with through the law.
* Jaffar Umar Thalib and the Laskar Jihad to be recognised as militant extremists and terrorists (not humanitarians as they claim) and be removed from Maluku and Papua.
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE: ——————————————————————- INDONESIA: VIOLENCE RESURGES IN AMBON MASSACRE
At 3:45am on Sunday 28 April, black-masked, heavily armed Islamic militants entered the Christian village of Soya (near Ambon city) as the people slept. They moved from house to house, killing up to 21 people by stabbing, decapitation or burning them alive, as well as wounding many more. Thirty homes and a Christian church were also incinerated. This occurred only 35 hours after the head of the militant Islamist Laskar Jihad, Jaffar Umar Thalib, had publicly urged Muslims in Ambon to ‘no longer talk about reconciliation’, but to ‘… be preparing for war – ready your guns, spears and daggers’. Pray that the Indonesian government will support last February’s Peace Accord by restoring the rule of law in Maluku. Pray for the believers to be strong and not lose faith or hope.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray specifically and regularly for religious liberty issues, and in particular to uphold the Church where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC. Elizabeth Kendal researched and compiled this message.
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