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Press Release — August 13, 2002

POSO A SEA OF FIRE: Human Rights Group Urges Action

Indonesian military incapable of quenching the flames

(Tuesday August 13, 2002 – Joko Harmono, Jakarta, Indonesia) After a week of terror at the hands of the Laskar Jihad, the Christians are bathing in a sea of fire.

This is bringing to pass the prophetic announcement pre-recorded message broadcast on Radio SPMM Ambon on July 5, 2002 and distributed by email print-out from the Laskar Jihad Information site in mid July 2002. The Supreme Commander of the Laskar Jihad Ustadz Jafar Umar Thalib, using the same language used in his radio address in Ambon on May 1, 2002 called on the Muslim community to go to war against the Christian community:

“Prepare the bombs which we have. Prepare the ammunition which we are ready to vomit forth from the barrels of the weapons we possess. And we swear by Allah! By Allah! By Allah! Until Tentena and surroundings become a sea of fire.”

The vision is clear and their commitment to bring it to pass is unquestioned. They are willing, and often eager, to die for their faith because of what they have been promised by their faith. To die as a martyr in the battle while killing Christians or Jews brings the highest rewards – immediate entrance to Paradise with 72 eternally beautiful virgins, land as far as the eye can sea, alcohol that doesn’t make you drunk and music such as has never been heard on earth. When the alternative is living in poverty, dying of starvation and no prospect of employment, then the option to join the jihad looks very attractive indeed. What makes it even more attractive is that they are paid, are allowed to claim the booty of war, and if they die, their family will be well looked after by the local mosque.

What a great way to die! Adventure! Honor! Wealth! Security! Purpose! Salvation! Eternal sex! Wow!

Since Ustadz Jafar Umar Thalib’s Declaration of War the fires have been lit, fanned and now run wild like an uncontrollable forest fire.

In the past 8 months violations of the Malino Peace Accord signed last December to end three years of conflict have steadily increased numerically and in their intensity. These were still small-scale fires, but the match was lit and the fire was not quenched.

In the last two weeks, the fire has burst into a full-scale sea of fire. Murders and attacks in Mayoa to the south of Tentena. The razing to the ground of the villages of Matako, Betania-Malitu, Sepe and Silanca, the torture and massacre of Christians pulled from public buses and private vehicles has left a trail of blood in recent days, and the fire rages on.

The Promise of the Malino Peace Treaty

Malino breathed hope into the hearts of the Christian community, that maybe at last the persecution and brutal attacks would cease. But within two weeks 5 churches in the capital of the Province, Palu, were bombed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (2001-2002). The accused mastermind, one of the Muslim signatories to the Malino Accord, was arrested.

At Malino the Government made a commitment to arrest and process every case violating the Peace Accord. Every violation would be treated as a criminal case and dealt with firmly according to the law. But what has happened? Christian buses get blown up. Christian villages get looted, then burned to the ground. Christians in vehicles get pulled out, tortured and slain. Foreign tourists get murdered. And no-one gets arrested. “Unidentified people” are accused. Cabinet Minister Yusuf Kalla, as reported in The Jakarta Post, Sunday August 11, stated that it can’t be radical Muslims doing it as “it is not their style.” He further elaborated that it wasn’t locals either. Well, who is it?

How can there be a restoration of peace and security if there is no enforcement of law and order?

Why can’t this terror be stopped?

There are two realistic possible options.

Option 1. There is a grand conspiracy

One theory for the ongoing conflict and the inability of the government, the military and the police to stop the terror is the conspiracy option. On August 11, before the latest attacks on Sepe and Silanca I commented on this possible option in an article called, Christian Villages Terrorized: Military Secretly Withdrawn In that article I commented on the reporting of The Jakarta Post:

The daily newspaper The Jakarta Post today, Sunday August 11, quoted a statement by the Minister for Health & Social Welfare, that he doubted the shooting of the Italian Lorenzo Taddei in Mayoa, the district of Poso, on Thursday evening, was carried out by a militant Muslim group because, “It is not their style”. The report from The Jakarta Post continued with a statement from the Minister which said that the murderers were not people from Central Sulawesi. “This is terror that is coming from outside the Province”, he explained.

If the perpetrators are not Jihad or from militant Islamic groups, if they are not people from Central Sulawesi, if they are terrorists from outside of Central Sulawesi, then who are they? We need to know!

To say that “this is not their style” in connection with the Jihad, is startling! Last year, seven times Christian buses were attacked, bombed and shot at. This year already five times Christian buses have been shot at or bombed. So, whose “style” is this? Truly the statement of Minister Yusuf Kalla is very disappointing. Is he only defending his friends of the same religion or is he really seeking the truth?

I further commented on a quoted statement by the Military Commander Wirabuana Maj. Gen. Amirul Isnaini in Makassar, South Sulawesi:

The Jakarta Post yesterday, Saturday (10/8) quoted the former head of the Special Military Forces who is now the Commander of Wirabuana in Makassar, South Sulawesi, saying that there are about 50 foreigners who live in Poso using tourist visas and they are there with “reasons that are unclear”.

This statement is very provocative and is used by the jihad to justify their presence in Poso, for the sake of the defense of the Poso Muslims. Are there two armies in our nation? The Laskar Jihad and the Indonesian Army? Where are the 50 foreigners? Who are they? Please, Gen. Isnaini, please tell us! We need to know!

Investigations in the area shows that occasionally there are foreign tourists who come to Tentena from Toraja or other cities. Sometimes they come in groups of two, sometimes more. But 50! The hotels in Tentena would be overrun if that many people came all at the one time. And if they did come, shouldn’t it be something quite normal? Tentena, together with Toraja, is promoted overseas as a tourist destination and the government always reports to investors and overseas governments that peace has been restored. Don’t we have the Malino Agreement and haven’t the military guaranteed peace and safety? Is it not only right that tourists should come here? Or should we tell the world, “Don’t come to Indonesia. It’s not safe!”

Two days in a row The Jakarta Post has carried these very provocative news reports. What is their agenda? Is there a conspiracy in the Government, for example, between the Minister for Health & Social Welfare Yusuf Kalla and the Indonesian Army, or perhaps with Major General Amirul Isnaini to purposely provide news that creates an impression that it is not the jihad terrorists that have killed the Italian tourist and even providing news that leads to the impression that maybe it is the foreigners, the tourists, not the local people, not the Muslim militants who are behind the terror that is taking place in Poso recently. This is too much!

Then in a third quote by the same newspaper they quote the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Army, Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu to indicate that foreign tourists could be involved in the Poso conflict questioning the presence of the slain Italian tourist, adding, “It is not clear if Lorenzo was one of these foreigners.”

This sort of reporting makes the Christian community very uncomfortable and suspicious as though there is a grand design between certain elements of the Press, the Military and the Government to form public opinion against the Christians in support of the agenda of the Islamic radicals rampaging out of control in our country. Is there another option?

Option 2. The security forces are incapable of quenching the flames

This second option questions whether the Indonesian security forces are just totally incapable or are so compromised that they are unable to provide and guarantee security.

Are the intelligence branches of the security forces just lacking in intelligence or do they face a real crisis of compromised faith?

I want to give the security forces the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to raise the option of corruption on a wide-scale and using the suffering of the people as an opportunity to make money on the black market. There maybe a few like that, but I can’t believe that the security forces are that greedy. I believe that they are sincere and they love the country. But are they compromised by their faith?

During the Soeharto years and the running of the P4 program which instilled devoutness of faith in every citizen as a part of commitment to the national philosophy of Pancasila and Unity in Diversity.

Every member of the security forces has to be committed to his or her faith. Since 85% of the security forces are Muslims, they are taught to be faithful to their religion and their country.

Then a conflict occurs, for example, in Ambon or Poso, where there are strong religious elements involved. A jihad is declared. What can be done by these Muslims who are in the security forces? Jihad, in its various forms, is a valid part of their faith. To fight against fellow Muslims on a jihad is to fight against Allah. If one becomes the enemy of Allah then there is no possibility of salvation and one is condemned to the fires of hell for all eternity.

Minimally, these Muslim members of the security forces are compromised. Do they love Indonesia? Yes, they do. Do they support the national philosophy and commitment to unity in diversity? Yes, they do. But they don’t want to burn in eternal torment in the fires of hell the Al Qu’ran and The Haddiths promises to all who fight against jihad. So they withdraw. They will not fight the jihad forces marching on a Christian village. The Christians are left to resist automatic weapons with bamboo sticks, stones and machete knives.

Unfortunately, the minimum for some is not sufficient. They too get caught up in the call to jihad and the promised guarantees of eternal life and pleasure for them and their families. To win is glory and to die in a jihad is even more glorious. That’s why so many members of the security forces have been so actively involved in the massacres against the Christians.

Are they just plain evil people? No! At least not any more than any other human being of any religious faith. They are just compromised or captivated by the teachings of their faith.

What is the solution?

I would like to suggest two possibilities.

Firstly, our Government must bring an understanding to the security forces that these attacks and massacres are criminal acts that endanger the stability and future of the nation. All criminal acts must be dealt with by law, whatever their religious faith and whatever their social or political position. The current activities are not just anti-Christian, they are anti-Indonesia. It threatens the economic recovery. It prolongs the suffering of the poor. It makes our country a laughing stock among the nations.

Our country and its constitution guarantees freedom of religion and tolerance of the beliefs of others. We support the principles of Human Rights and Freedom of Choice for all.

If we are to live as a civilized society in the community of nations, the security forces must see that standing up against jihad terrorism is not anti-Allah, but anti-terrorism and anti-evil.

If the security forces cannot accept that then it proves that they are so totally compromised that they have become unable and unwilling to be a truly Indonesian Defense Force but instead have become an Islamic Defense Force. Which is it to be?

The second possibility is that the Government recognizes the innate weakness of the security forces (military and police) to carry out their national duties in a religious conflict and to look for an international partner to assist them.

Does this bring shame on Indonesia? No way! It just recognizes like any mature person, family or nation, that we live in an international community and that sometimes we need some friends to help us through a difficult time. This is just such a difficult time.

Let us not let the innocents suffer any longer. Let’s get real. Let’s invite the UN to be a partner with us. There is no shame in this. In fact the world community will praise us for our maturity and commitment to resolving a very complex problem. It is time for us to grow up as a nation. Under Sukarno we were infants. Under Soeharto we were wild teenagers. But now – it is time for us to be adults and join the world community.

Urgent Action Needed

International Christian Concern is appealing to the public to contact the Indonesian Embassy and our own U.S. government in Washington, DC to intervene on behalf of the Christians in Poso before mass genocide takes place. Contact the following:

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Comments Tel. 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
Fax: 202-456-2461
Secretary of State Colin Powell
2201 C St. NW
Washington, DC 20520
Tel. 202-647-4000
e-mail: [email protected]
U.S. Embassy
Jl. Merdeka Selatan 4-5
Jakarta 10110
Phone: (62-21) 3435-9000
Fax: (62-21) 3435-9922
Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia
2020 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 775-5200
Fax: (202) 775-5365

International Christian Concern is a Washington, DC based human rights organization that advocates on behalf of Christians worldwide who are suffering persecution for their faith. More information is available at