Moluccas: campaign calls for international pressure to save fragile peace

 After travelling to Indonesia and leading a delegation to Brussels to save a fragile peace deal, Jubilee Campaign's US Director, Ann Buwulda considers the implications of the recent killing of 14 Christians and the possible way ahead. Days after Jubilee Campaign's delegation urged members of the European Parliament to bolster the fragile peace agreement in the Moluccas Islands of Indonesia, masked executioners massacred 14 Christians in the village of Soya. Jihad warriors entered the predominantly Christian village in the early hours of Sunday April 28. While proclaiming Allah's greatness and shouting "kill them all," they went from house to house stabbing, shooting, and setting off bombs. Women and children were not spared, including a nine-month-old baby. Our delegation had flown to Brussels on April 15-17 to brief members of the European Parliament, who were themselves sending a delegation to Indonesia. The parliamentarians were preparing for meetings with Indonesia's President, Megawatti Sukamoputri set for April 29. Jubilee impressed upon these officials the importance of bolstering the fledgling peace agreement for the Moluccas. The agreement, known as "Malino II," offers the best hope of protection to the minority Christian population. It was signed by a number of Christian and Muslim leaders of goodwill that sought to return to the peaceful co-existence that they had enjoyed in the past. Significantly, Jubilee's delegation included Mr Hengky Hattu, an Indonesian lawyer who was one of the negotiators and signers of the agreement. This is the most serious resumption of bloodletting in the Moluccas since the peace deal was signed in February 2002. At approximately 3.45am the electricity to the village of Soya was turned off, and a systematic rampage commenced. In little more than an hour, the destroyers killed 14 villagers, maimed and injured devastated survivors, gutted 30 homes, and torched the old, beautiful Soya Protestant church. By 5.00 am, the attackers withdrew. The village lay burning for another two hours before the authorities responded. Later that Sunday morning, local TV showed survivors conducting worship in the open rain beside the remains of their church. I had visited the village of Soya in January this year. I had also been part of the delegation that briefed Members of the European Parliament about the precarious situation of the Christians there. The timing of this attack is no accident. The Laskar Jihad has repeatedly denounced the Malino II Peace Agreement, signed by both Muslim and Christian representatives. On April 24 the leader of Laskar Jihad, Jaafar Umar Thalib, arrived in the capital city of Ambon to deliver his "holy" call to arms. His "sermon" at the local mosque was packed by thousands of extremists, who were primed for incitement. The first casualty was the Silo Church in Ambon. On April 25, it was torched to the ground for the second time in two years. Soya lay smouldering three days later. Who is next? The pretext for Jaafar Umar Thalib's arrival was that the little-known Moluccan separatist movement (RMS) would fly its flag on the 52nd anniversary of its failed independence bid on April 25. But the government had already arrested the RMS leader, Alex Manaputty, detaining him to prevent that very thing. Virtually no Christians in Ambon or the Moluccas actually support the RMS. Laskar Jihad maintains a military base in the Muslim village of Air Kuning, only a short distance from Soya. It is utter hypocrisy for the Indonesian security forces to arrest the leader and members of the RMS for flying flags, while permitting Jaafar Umar Thalib to incite thousands to holy terror. The Laskar Jihad continues unimpeded in its systematic sabotage of the fledgling peace agreement. Between the signing of the Malino-II peace agreement and this weekend's massacre, Muslim signatories to the peace have been physically threatened, a bus shooting was carried out in Galunggung, and the Amboina Hotel was destroyed by a massive bomb. The hotel was located in the diminishing Christian sector of Ambon City. Six persons were killed, and 55 were critically wounded in that attack. Jubilee Campaign is calling on the International community to put full pressure on the Indonesian authorities to expel Laskar Jihad and its network from the conflict areas. Laskar Jihad enjoys the status of a benevolence organization, while it furthers a militant agenda to establish Shariah Islamic law in Indonesia. Inexplicably, it continues unabated, notwithstanding its links to international terrorist organizations.

Share this story