Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

ICC Note:
Since there have been no convictions in over 40 attacks against Christians in the last 2 years in the Poso area, forgive us if we are underwhelmed by the Indonesian government’s response. The governement, local (definitely), and national (probably on some level) are part of the problem.

New Indonesian Security Unit to Probe New Year’s Eve Bombing

Human rights groups call for independent investigation in Central Sulawasi .

by Sarah Page

(Compass) – The Indonesian government has established a new Security Operation Command, or kopskam, to investigate violence in Central Sulawesi following a New Year’s Eve bomb explosion in Palu that killed eight people.

The bomb, which left 56 others injured, exploded in a marketplace in a Christian area of Palu at 6:30 a.m., as residents were buying pork for their festive meals. Pork is offensive to Muslims, and the bombing of what locals call a “Christian market” where the meat is sold may point to Islamic terrorists.

The bombing is the latest in a string of violent incidents over the past two years, echoing conflict between Muslims and Christians from 1998 to 2001 that claimed more than 1,000 lives.

A peace accord was signed in December 2001, but sporadic attacks have continued ever since – with Christians forming the overwhelming majority of victims.

By Monday (January 2), 52 people had been questioned and 35 named as witnesses, according to The Jakarta Post. Police were also interrogating a 40-year-old man known as Mulyono, (Indonesians are commonly identified only by a single name), who was seen questioning vendors the night before. On January 3, however, some residents claimed Mulyono was simply a new pork supplier looking for customers.

Human rights groups immediately called for an independent investigation, but the government responded with the new Security Operation Command made up of military and police officials.

The new kopskam team planned to send 1,100 police reinforcements and an unspecified number of soldiers to Poso and Palu, The Jakarta Post reported today.

Approximately 4,000 extra police and military personnel had already been sent to restore order to the troubled province in 2005 but failed to prevent repeated attacks on civilians. They also failed to track down and arrest perpetrators of the ongoing violence.

Edmond Leonard, an activist from the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of the Violence (KONTRAS) in Sulawesi , wondered how the bomb attack occurred in Palu when police had heightened security measures ahead of the holiday season after warnings of possible terror attacks.

“This fact makes us think that security officers may be part of the problem here,” Edmond told Internet news agency Paras Indonesia.

The same agency quoted chairman Munarman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, who said the unrest was due to “the actions of certain local people and troops acting outside the chain of command.”

The Poso Center , an umbrella group of local charity organizations, told The Jakarta Post that the formation of the kopskam would merely “protect certain parties believed to have played roles in creating the conflict.”

Ibrahim Buaya, an independent human rights activist, also wrote scathingly of the government response: “After every attack the Christians are told by the police, the government, the Islamic leaders – ‘Don’t be provoked by these terrorist attacks!’ But are we to sit here and wait until we are exterminated?”

Buaya provided a partial list of other terror attacks or attempted attacks in Sulawesi in the latter half of 2005. (See sidebar.)

A String of Violence

Several fatal attacks on Christians also took place in the first six months of 2005. These included a bombing in the Christian market of Tentena on May 28, which left 22 dead and at least 49 injured. (See Compass Direct, “Two Bombs Kill Christians in Tentena , Indonesia ,” May 31, 2005.)

Arguably the most gruesome attacks were a series of beheadings that took place in late October and early November last year in Poso and Palu. In the first of these, four teenage girls were assaulted while walking to their Christian high school in Poso district. Theresia Morangke, Alfita Poliwo and Yarni Sambue were beheaded while a fourth, Noviana Malewa, is still recovering from serious injuries.

All three heads were found in plastic bags with a note stating in part, “We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents.”

Two more schoolgirls – one Christian and one Muslim – were shot on November 8. Machete-wielding assailants attacked three young people, killing one of them, on November 18, and a Christian couple were shot and seriously wounded on November 19. (See Compass Direct, “Two More Schoolgirls Critically Injured in Poso, Indonesia ,” November 9, 2005, and “Weekend Shooting, Machete Attacks Stun Christians in Indonesia ,” November 21, 2005.)

Christians and human rights groups see the violence as an attempt to re-ignite religious conflict in the region.

Some officials, however, continue to deny any religious element.

In an interview with The Jakarta Post on Tuesday (January 3), a member of the Regional Representatives Council that has studied the violence in Palu and Poso said, “We have dropped any assumptions that religious sentiment is the main problem in the area.”

Known only as Muspani, the council member said he had come to this conclusion because the bombing of Christian markets in Tentena and Palu and the beheading of Christian schoolgirls “failed to provoke violence” from the Christian community.