ASIA/INDONESIA - Threatened attacks on Churches at Christmas: double security measures in the Moluccas Islands

Monday, 20 December 2004

Jakarta (Fides Service) - On Christmas day and all though the Christmas season the Indonesian army will guarantee special protection for all churches in Ambon, capital city in the Moluccas Islands. There is in fact growing fear of attacks on churches following developments in recent months with episodes of violence which have caused rising tension in Christian/Muslim relations in the province of central Sulawesi.
The new president of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visit the Moluccas on 26 December who will meet civil and religious leaders in a bid to boost the process of peace and reconciliation.
Christians in Indonesia still remember Christmas 2000 when 11 bomb explosions on churches in various parts of the country killed 13 people and injured 100. “We must prevent any new outbreak of violence. Christians are worried but confident because of the presence of the police and the army”, Father Carl Bohm, head of the Crisis Centre of Amboina diocese told Fides.
“In Ambon - he said- although Christians and Muslims continue to live in separate districts, they meet in markets, shopping centres, schools, universities and public offices and there is no trouble at all. We all hope and we are all working to ensure that peace will continue to reign in the Moluccas”.
Father Bohm warns that violence in the Moluccas may be provoked from outside: “The chief of police and civil authorities are convinced that people or groups in Jakarta could plan terrorist attacks in the Moluccas to start civil conflict again. But the people of Ambon must not fall into the trap”.
At least 15,000 people were killed in civil war in the Moluccas between 1999 and 2002 and 500,000 people were left homeless. The conflict ended with a peace agreement signed in February 2002 in Malino. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 20/12/2004 righe 28 parole 285)