Background to recent attempts to stamp out Christianity in Indonesia from Paul Stenhouse, PhD:
THE person speaking had lived through it all. He was from the Moluccas – the Spice Islands of legend – and had been there most of his adult life. He was a Catholic and spoke from experience of people and events known to him at first hand. The tale he told of friends and communities betrayed, and innocents tortured and murdered without qualm or mercy, was heart-rending. All the more so because it need never have happened; and because it reflected badly on those who were obliged to prevent it: the Indonesian government and the International Community, especially the UN and its International Court of Justice.It also exposed an unpalatable truth: that evil, cruelty and plain stupidity lie just beneath the surface of our seemingly humdrum lives, waiting to be summoned like the ring-wraiths and orcs in Tolkien’s classic metaphor of the human struggle of good against evil. Without compassionate and humane solidarity with those who suffer and are oppressed, our world becomes an uninhabitable jungle. There, as the pagan Roman playwright Plautus warned us, ‘homo homini lupus,’ man preys on his fellow men like a wolf, and fear and hopelessness dominate where once was love.
During 1997 and 1998 more than 500 Catholic and Protestant churches were burnt down throughout Indonesia. The figure is conservative, as, according to some estimates, more than 350 churches were burned down in the first months of 1998 alone. The Christians were weaponless and politically powerless. They were a minority in a Muslim country. They made no effective response.
This church-burning had been mainly restricted to Java and Sumatra including Aceh. Since 1968 more than 1,000 Indonesian churches had been burned down or demolished. The problem had not yet touched the Moluccas – mainly because Christians comprise 50 % of the population and relations between Muslims and their Christian neighbours were good.
By January 1999 all this had changed. When Christians in Kupang – the capital of West Timor – finally retaliated by burning down two mosques this act was regarded by Muslims as an affront by the ‘Christian dogs,’ – the infidels – and in January 1999 several people were killed in Dobu, in the Aru Islands.
Not long afterwards, on January 19, 1999, the killing started in Ambon, capital of the Moluccas.
A Christian driver of a minibus refused to give into extortion when a young Muslim demanded money; a fight started and people took sides and it quickly spread to the whole of the island. Muslims came from Hitulama and butchered many people – about twenty in the village of Benteng Kareng including one or more pregnant women – because they had heard that the mosque in Ambon was surrounded. The Christians then heard that the Silo Protestant Church had been burnt and destroyed. Tensions mounted.
The Catholics in Ambon were mainly immigrants from nearby islands and from other parts of Indonesia. The Ambonese were Protestants from Dutch colonial times, and Muslims. So the Catholics tended to stay out of the conflict – not regarding it as ‘their fight’. This all changed when the Laskar Jihad arrived in May 2000. The Mujahidun in their distinctive white robes and caps, and brandishing machetes and guns, did not distinguish between Catholics and Protestants.
The Catholics and the Chinese subsequently suffered terrible material losses, but fewer of them were killed than the Protestant Ambonese because they fled back to their islands since they had no weapons with which to defend themselves, and they had fewer family estates to defend than their Protestant neighbours.
These latter on the other hand had weapons, and because they were locals, had nowhere to go. Ambon was their home, and they had been there longer than many of the Muslims who had taken part in early large-scale migration from Bugis, Buton and Makassar, or had arrived only after 1949 in this part of the Moluccas under government sponsored transmigration from Java. This partly explains the reaction of the Protestants to the violence of the Laskar Jihad and the local Muslims.
The Muslims looted and burnt the shops and homes of the Catholics and Protestants. Local Muslims also suffered damage to their homes and shops, but the military were ordered not to fire against the Muslims. Sometimes they did so. Mujahidun snipers controlled certain areas, and particularly bridges that Christians had to use, but the police never caught them.
Agence France Press [AFP] reported that east of the capital, Ambon. Muslims massacred 93 Christians on Kasui, a small island in Indonesia’s Moluccas chain, for refusing to convert to Islam.
Annals hasn’t been able to confirm this number. But reliable sources confirm that all attacks by the Mujahidun on this occasion [November 23-26, 2000] took place at about 6.00 a.m. and that an estimated 3,000 Muslim fighters were involved.
The village of Utta was attacked on November 23, resulting in the burning of a church and 4 houses. Karlomin was attacked on November 24, resulting in several residents being killed, others wounded, and a number of houses burned. On November 25, it was the turn of Wunin to be attacked. The Catholic church, a school and 100 houses were burned. The village of Tanasoa became target of an attack on November 26: several Christians were killed, a church, a school and a number of houses were burned.
270 people from these villages managed to escape to the neighbouring island of Teor. More than 700 Catholics and Protestants subsequently agreed to convert in fear of their lives.
The victims were among and estimated 3,000 refugees who fled into the jungle when Islamic mujahidun attacked four [other] villages on November 28, according to AFP.
Associated Press [AP] reported similar attacks earlier in the week [referred to above] that destroyed two Christian churches and left 54 villagers dead. The soldiers reportedly pursued the villagers and forced captives to choose between Islam and death.
Some Muslims sought to protect their Christian friends and neighbors, a Catholic priest told AP. ‘There are good Muslims who want to protect, while there are bad people who want to slaughter,’ he said. The government was slow to respond to the emergency, said a witness who claimed that only one boat came to evacuate the refugees. Government officials said about 500 people were rescued and several infantry companies have been sent to the island to prevent more violence, according to AP.
|Many terrorist events have happened all over the world.
The timeline shown here represents just a few of them.
|November 4, 1979 Teran, Iran||U.S. Embassy Taken OverA group of Iranian students who were angry at the United States attacked and seized its embassy in Tehran, Iran. They were supported by the countries leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.Details|
|1982 – 1991
|18 Americans KidnappedDavid Dodge was the president of the American University in Beirut. He was kidnapped the first time while he was on his way home from work. He was released, but he was kidnapped again. This time he was killed. His murder was called the most gruesome abduction, torture, and killing of a United States citizen. The terrorists videotaped his torture and murder. A group called the Organization of the Oppressed on Earth claimed responsibility, but the real suspects are the Hezbollah guerillas.Details|
|April 18, 1983
|Truck Bombing of U.S. EmbassyA large vehicle packed with explosives is driven quickly into the U.S. Embassy compound in Beirut. When it explodes it kills 63 people. A group of terrorists called the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.Details|
|October 23, 1983
|Truck Bombing of U.S. Marine BarracksA large truck bomb with 2,500 pounds of TNT smashed through the main gate of the U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut. 241 U.S. servicement are killed when it expoldes. A French paratrooper base is blown up just a few minutes later and 58 French soldiers are killed. A terrorist group called the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.Details|
|December 12, 1983
Kuwait City, Kuwait
|U.S. Embassy Annex AttackedA truck loaded with explosives crashed into the U.S. Embassy anex in Kuwait. Four people were killed and at least 62 were injured. A terrorist group called the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.Details|
|September 20, 1984
|U.S. Embassy Compound AttackedA van filled with explosives sped through several barriers and groups of U.S. soldiers and stopped about 30 feet in front of the embassy annex. The driver of the van and 12 soldiers and visitors to the annex were killed. A terrorist group called the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.Details|
|April 12, 1985
|Restaurant BombingA bomb exploded in a restaurant where U.S. soldiers liked to eat. The explosion killed 18 Spaniard citizens and injured 82 other people. Only 15 of the Americans were injured, but none were killed.Details|
|June 13, 1985
|TWA Flight 847This airliner took off in Rome, Italy, but was hijacked and forced to fly to Beirut, Lebanon. Mohammed Hamadei from the terrorist group Hezbollah, Hassan Izz-al-Din from Lebanon, and Ali Atwa another terrorist hijacked the plane. Details|
August 8, 1985
|Rhein-Main Airbase BombingTwo Americans and 20 others are injured when a Volkswagon car loaded with explosives blew up at the U.S. Rhein-Main air base in Frankfurt, Germany. Two terrorist groups, West German Red Army faction and the French Direct Action, claimed responsibility for the bombing.Details|
|October 7, 1985
Port Said, Egypt
|The Ship Achille Lauro is HijackedAchille Lauro cruise ship hijacked by four Palistinian men who are members of the Palestine Liberation Organization. They murder a handicapped man from New York and throw his body overboard.Details|
|November 23, 1985
|Egyptair Flight 648 HijackedThree Arab men from the terrorist group Abu Nidal Organization hijacked this plane and forced it to land in Valletta, Malta. There was a 30 hour standoff between the hijackers and the Egyptian comandos.Details|
|December 27, 1985
Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria
|Grenades and Guns are used to Massacre Passengers at Rome and Vienna AirportAt the same time two groups of terrorists, one in Rome and one in Vienna, charge up to the counters of Israel’s El Air airline. They throw grenades at the tourists getting ready to fly on the airline.
|April 02, 1986
|TWA Flight 840 BombedAs the plane was beginning to land in Athens a plastic explosive bomb exploded under the seat of the passenger sitting in seat 10F. Four people were killed and nine others were wounded. The terrorist group called Ezzedine Kassam Unit of the Arab Revolutionary Cells claimed responsibility.Details|
|April 05, 1986
|La Belle Disco in Berlin Bombed The La Belle is a nightclub that was popular with the United States servicemen. Two United States soldiers and one Turkish woman were killed in the explosion|
|December 21, 1988
|Pan Am Flight 103 BombingThe bomb that blew up this flight was packed in a small radio case. It was left on the plane by a terrorist that got off of the plane at an earlier stop. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group claimed responsibility. The bombing was carried out so that they could take revenge on America when one of its warships accidentally mistook a Palestinian passenger plane as a war plane and shot it down.Details|
|January 25, 1993
|CIA Employees in Langley, VA are ShotA Pakisini man, Mir Aimal Kasi, who lived in Virginia drove up to the CIA building in Langley, Virginia and shot two CIA agents. He was angry because he believed that the United States were mistreating Muslims who lived in the Middle East.Details|
|February 26, 1993
New York, New York
|1993 World Trade Center in New York BombedA group of Muslim terrorists are arrested after a rented van packed with explosives and driven into the World Trade Center’s underground parking garage. Six people were killed and more than 1,000 are injured in this terrorist attackDetails|
|November 13, 1995
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
|U.S. Military Complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is BombedSeven people are killed when a powerful car bomb explodes in front of a military center run by the United States military. Three terrorist groups: Islamic Movement for Change, the Tigers of the Gulf, and the Combatant Partisans of God claim responsibility for the bombing of this military center.Details|
|June 25, 1996
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
|Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia are BombedA fuel truck was parked 35 yards away from a United States military compound. When the truck blew up 19 American soldiers were killed and 500 more people were wounded. The Movement for Islamic Change claimed responsibility for the bombing.Details|
|August 07, 1998
Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
|U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania are BombedThese terrorist attacks happened almost at the same time. More than 5,000 people were injured and 224 were killed when the buildings that they were working in collapsed during the explosions.Details|
|October 12, 2000
|USS Cole BombedThe USS Cole was docked in Aden Yemen for refueling. A small craft pulled alongside the ship and two terrorists set off the bomb. The two terrorists were killed and so were 17 U.S. Navy seamen when the explosion blew a 20 by 40 foot hole in the side of the ship.Details|
|September 11, 2001
New York City, Washington, D.C.
|World Trade Center is Destroyed and the Pentagon is AttackedTerrorists hijack 4 domestic flights from Boston airport. Two of the planes slam in to the two World Trade Center towers, causing them to collapse. A third flight crashes into the Pentagon, and a fourth crashes in Pennsylvania.Details|
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Al-Qaida in Iraq warned Pope Benedict XVI on Monday that its war against Christianity and the West will go on until Islam takes over the world, and Iran’s supreme leader called for more protests over the pontiff’s remarks on Islam.
Protests broke out in South Asia and Indonesia, with angry Muslims saying Benedict’s statement of regret a day earlier did not go far enough. In southern Iraq, demonstrators carrying black flags burned an effigy of the pope.
Islamic leaders around the world issued more condemnations of the pope’s comments, but some moderates in the Middle East appeared to be trying to put a damper on the outrage, fearing it could spiral into attacks on Christians in the region.
On Sunday, Benedict said he was “deeply sorry” over any hurt caused by his comments made in a speech last week, in which he quoted a medieval text characterizing some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman” and calling Islam a religion spread by the sword.
Benedict said the remarks came from a text that didn’t reflect his own opinion, but he did not retract what he said or say he was sorry he uttered what proved to be explosive words.
The Vatican on Monday sought to defuse the anger, ordering papal representatives around the world to meet with leaders of Muslim countries to explain the pope’s point of view and full context of his speech.
Roman Catholic leaders stepped forward to defend the pontiff. At an Italian bishops’ conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini underlined the bishops'”total closeness and solidarity to the pope” and said they deplored interpretations of the pope’s comments “which attribute to the Holy Father … errors that he has not committed and aim at attacking his person and his ministry.”
Few in the Islamic world were satisfied by Benedict’s statement of regret.
“The pope’s words have caused a deep wound in the hearts of Muslims that won’t heal for a long time, and then only after a clear apology to Muslims,” Egypt’s religious affairs minister, Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, wrote in a column in the government daily Al-Ahram on Monday.
An influential Egyptian cleric, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, called for protests after weekly prayers on Friday, but maintained they should be peaceful.
Extremists said the pope’s comments proved that the West was in a war against Islam.
Al-Qaida in Iraq and its allies issued a statement addressing the pope as “a cross-worshipper” and warning, “You and the West are doomed, as you can see from the defeat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and elsewhere.
“You infidels and despots, we will continue our jihad (holy war) and never stop until God avails us to chop your necks and raise the fluttering banner of monotheism, when God’s rule is established governing all people and nations,” said the statement by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups in Iraq.
Another Iraqi extremist group, Ansar al-Sunna, challenged “sleeping Muslims” to prove their manhood by doing something other than “issuing statements or holding demonstrations.”
“If the stupid pig is prancing with his blasphemies in his house,” the group said in a Web statement, referring to the pope, “then let him wait for the day coming soon when the armies of the religion of right knock on the walls of Rome.”
In Iran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei used the comments to call for protests against the United States. He argued that while the pope may have been deceived into making his remarks, the words give the West an “excuse for suppressing Muslims” by depicting them as terrorists.
“Those who benefit from the pope’s comments and drive their own arrogant policies should be targeted with attacks and protests,” he said, referring to the United States.
The anger recalled the outrage earlier this year over cartoons depicting the prophet published by a Danish paper. The caricatures, which Muslims saw as insulting Muhammad, set off large, violent protests across the Islamic world.
So far, protests over the pope’s comments have been smaller. However, there has been some violence: Attackers hurled firebombs at seven churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the weekend, and a nun was shot to death in Somalia.
Some 200 Khamenei loyalists in the Syrian capital, Damascus, held a protest Monday at an Islamic shrine, dismissing the pope’s apology. “The pope’s sorrow was equivocal,” read one banner.
Dozens protested outside the Vatican Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, and schools and shops in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir shut their doors in protest.
“His comments really hurt Muslims all over the world,” Umar Nawawi of the radical Islamic Defenders’ Front said in Jakarta. “We should remind him not to say such things which can only fuel a holy war.”
Islamic countries also asked the U.N. Human Rights Council to examine the question of religious tolerance. Malaysia’s foreign minister, Syed Hamid Albar, said Benedict’s apology was “inadequate to calm the anger.”
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood said the anger should not be allowed to hurt ties with the Middle East’s Christian minorities. But worries among Christians in the region are high.
Guards have been posted around some churches, and the head of Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III, disassociated himself from Benedict’s statements.
The Dominican mission in Cairo also criticized Benedict’s words, saying he chose a text for his speech that “revived the polemics of the past.”
“These comments, seen by many Muslims as hurtful, risk encouraging extremists on all sides,” it said in a statement, “and put in danger all the advances in dialogue made in recent decades.”