The Deep Sorrow of Lewono Lembantongoa's Christians | Persecution

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The Deep Sorrow of Lewono Lembantongoa’s Christians

By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent

12/31/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The morning of November 27, 2020, will forever be a dark day for Christian residents in Lewono hamlet, Lembantongoa village, Sigi Palu district, Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia. The people who have lived there in peace passed their days as farmers of corn and coffee; it never occurred to them that an atrocious event could happen in their village.

A group of East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) terrorists descended on the village that Friday morning, brutally slain four villagers before setting fire to half a dozen homes, including a church. Until this day, the suspects are still at large.

This incident brought deep wounds and trauma to the Christian villagers, who are part of the Salvation Army’s Lembantongoa church post.

In early December, ICC and other Christian groups visited Lembantongoa village, the main village of Lewono hamlet where the slaughter took place. Soon after the attack, the victims and the 13 remaining families were evacuated. When we arrived at the Salvation Army’s church post, we were warmly welcomed by both Pastor Lieutenant Arnianto Papa and his wife, Lieutenant Mrs. Agustina Assa, as well as some residents from Lewono hamlet who were in the church at the time. The church was used as a public kitchen to feed families evacuated from Lewono hamlet. A blue tent installed beside the church was set up as a haven.

Despite their welcome, the sorrow and trauma were so deep it was clearly visible on their faces. I could sense the sadness and grief in their midst, even though the victims were absent since they were asked to go to a village near Palu city to apply for new IDs. It was a requirement from the Indonesian government for them to be able to receive financial compensation later on.

I asked about the chronology of the incident. Lieutenant Assa, who was out of town with her husband at the time of the attack, told me what she had heard from the victims’ families. When the victims were evacuated to Lembantengoa village, she ran into Mama Janah, a nickname for Mr. Naka’s wife, and asked her what happened.

“She told me, ‘I was at my daughter’s house, located not far away from my house, where I could still see my house. I saw a group of people walking toward our house, where my husband Naka was having a haircut by my son Pedi. I thought they were security officers from the police since they were carrying weapons. They came and were welcomed by my husband and my son, as they shook hands.’”

“‘Then I saw my son Pedi entered the house, and two people followed. They held his hand and stabbed him with a sword. The same thing happened to my husband, except they hacked his head, but his head did not break off. He soon was lying face down on the ground. That was when I realized they were terrorists, and immediately we fled to hide in the forest to save ourselves. We saw our house burned down in front of our eyes. In the end, we found out that my son Pedi was in the burned house,” Lieutenant Assa shared Mama Janah’s account.

She continued, “There was also Pinu’s wife who I saw. As their pastor, I tried to calm her down too, and she started telling stories about what happened. she said, ‘At that time, there was a group of people around my house. My husband Pinu just returned from the bathroom outside our house. One of them asked where the man [of the household] was, so my husband went out of the house.’

“‘They shouted [at my husband], ‘Hey, come here!’ I was still standing in the kitchen beside our house. I saw my husband who approached them was told to sit down.  I could not see how he sat because he was in front of the house while I was at the side of the house. I could only see my father Yasa from my position.’”

“‘My father sat squatting. One of them tapped my father’s shoulder, and my father looked like his head was weak, then they held his head and pushed it further down. From where I was standing close to our kitchen, I shouted, ‘Hey! What are you doing to my dad?’ That was when I saw one of them put a machete under my father’s neck and slit the bottom of my father neck.’”

Lieutenant Assa demonstrated to me how they did it while recounting Pinu’s wife’s testimony. “Several times they were swinging the machete towards the back of the neck of my father until the head was separated from the body. Seeing what I saw, immediately I ran and grabbed my child to save ourselves. I could only hold my child as my mother ran towards my father. They caught her and tied my mother. I took my child and ran into the forest as fast as possible. It turned out that my mother was not only tied up but also splashed with blood,’” Lieutenant Assa shared the horror witnessed by Pinu’s wife.

While the mother of Pinu’s wife survived the attack, Pinu was stabbed to death.

I do not know how long the grief will be endured by the Christians in Lewono hamlet, Lembantongoa village. But one thing is certain—even if the suffering is present, they have to move forward because life continues. Please pray that the Christian villagers will recover quickly from such profound trauma, as their grief is also our suffering as one body in the body of Christ.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org

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