Political leaders and human rights activists are being called upon to respond urgently to the cry of the Christian Church in Central Sulawesi. In scenes reminiscent of November and December 2001, whole villages are being burnt to the ground, churches are being destroyed and Christians are being shot and hacked to death. Desperate calls for assistance are being received via CB radios to neighboring villages who are then forwarding on the cries to our contacts in North Sulawesi.
On Monday evening (Aug 12) the villages of Sepe and Silanca were attacked and burnt to the ground. Local village men sought in vain to ward off the well equipped jihad attackers, whilst women and children fled into the night. Four are confirmed dead but that toll could rise much higher.
Notably absent in this pandemonium are the security forces who were mysteriously recalled to Poso (12 kms away) shortly before the attacks! Then hours after the jihad had destroyed the villages the security reappeared to 'restore order'.
One can appreciate the sentiment of local community leaders who ask in response to these recent attacks:
"Is there a conspiracy between the Laskar Jihad and part of these defense forces? Who knows! Indeed there is nothing we can do. Apparently we have no right to live in our Homeland, the Republic of Indonesia."
Mona Saroinsong from the Sulawesi Church Crisis Centre pleads, "PLEASE â€¦DO SOMETHING TO SAVE those who are innocent before it's too late!!"
The serious threat to the Christians of the region, the village of Tentena, with a population of around 60,000 (many of them refugees from other regions), is now again very real. Travel is being heavily restricted as public transport buses have been attacked in recent weeks and Christians traveling in cars risk being ambushed traveling between villages.
Central Sulawesi faced this same crisis late last year, when, except for the 11th hour intervention of the Indonesian Government and military forces, Tentena would have suffered the same fate as many smaller neighboring villages.
Sepe and Silanca are only 50 kms from Tentena and the sight of smoke and fire rising from this area is causing many to fear the worst. We need both immediate short-term help and a long-term guarantee of security. How could the Malino Peace Agreement ever have worked if Laskar Jihad could continue to operate unopposed and unchecked by local authorities?
A solution is needed that MUST INVOLVE the Laskar Jihad being removed from the area. Other forces that provoke and manipulate violence should also be brought to justice.