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Open Doors USA (01/09/06) – A New Year’s eve bomb blast in a crowded meat market in the Central Sulawesi town of Palu which killed eight and wounded 54 – many of them Christians – continued the reign of terror against Christians in Indonesia in 2005.

Among other incidents last year:

In May, two bombs in the Christian-majority town of Tentena killed 24 people and injured 97.

In September, Indonesian judges sentenced three Christian women to three years in prison for allowing Muslim children to attend a Christian education program.

In October, unidentified assailants beheaded three Christian high school girls walking to school in Poso, east of Palu.

And those incidents are just the tip of the iceberg concerning the escalation of persecution in Indonesia , which has the world’s largest Muslim population (172 million compared to 34 million Christians).

Some Christians in Indonesia claim that the Christian church is growing rapidly and is actually 23 percent of the population and not the reported 12 percent. However, that 23 percent has been used by Muslim fundamentalists to claim that Christianity is growing too fast and must be resisted with force.

“In addition to the brutal attacks on Christian believers, many Christian churches and villages have been burned down over the past few years,” says Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller. “The increase of terrorism, intimidation and persecution of Christians is part of the fundamental Muslims’ goal to implement Shariah Law – strict Muslim law – throughout Indonesia .

“Please join with me in prayers for our brothers and sisters in Indonesia . Pray that there will be freedom to worship for Christians – without intimidation or fear.”

Rinaldy Damanik, a leader of the Synod of Churches in Central Sulawesi , expressed his frustration in reaction to the December 31 attack when he told the Associated Press: “Whenever an incident takes place, senior officials ask us to tell the people (Christians) to remain unprovoked. When will the authorities be able to reveal the barbaric perpetrators in the province?”

There have been few arrests in the attacks on Indonesian Christians in 2005.

On a positive note, the December 26, 2004, tsunami which devastated Southeast Asia and Indonesia presented an opportunity for Christians in the stricken areas to reach out to their neighbors with the love of Christ.