Some background information:
Army officials said the attackers on Halmahera came mostly from the island
of Ternate, where Christians have been driven away by Islamic volunteer fighters. More
than 2,000 extremist Muslim paramilitary fighters have come into the region from other
parts of Indonesia despite moderate Muslim President Abdurrahman Wahid’s threats of
“stern action” against anyone pursuing a jihad. Christians in the region believe the
extremists have come to purge the region of Christianity.
John Barr, the secretary for Indonesia for the Uniting Church of Australia, said in April
that Christians already have been driven out of the islands ofTidore and Banda and were
virtually wiped out on the islands of Buru andMorotai. Barr said that “much of the
Protestant church in Maluku has been destroyed” and “Roman Catholic communities and
Pentecostal churches have suffered in a similar way.”
Since January 1999, more than 3,000 Muslims and Christians have died in sectarian
violence and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. 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.
Meanwhile, church leaders in Medan in North Sumatra are claiming that supporters of
former President Suharto are behind a series of bomb attacks on churches and other
buildings in the city, Catholic World News reported. On Sunday, police removed a bomb
after morning Mass at the Catholic Church of Christ the King. Parishioners found the
explosive in a plastic bag hidden in a bench.
Local police said the culprits likely are an organized group. Christ the King’s Father
Ismartono believes that the motive behind the bombs is to discredit the Wahid
Though Indonesia is more than 80 percent Muslim, about half of Medan’s 2.5 million
people identify themselves as Christians.
-via Project Cross.