Five Indonesians have been sentenced to prison in connection with violent rioting that destroyed or damaged at least 50 churches and killed several Christians.

Indonesian authorities report that, in all, 50 individuals have been arrested on charges associated with the most recent surge of rioting, starting in June 1996 and continuing this year (CT, March 3, 1997, p. 50). The five who have been convicted were sentenced to one to five months in prison.

Meanwhile, provincial governments have provided financial aid for rebuilding churches. Additionally, Abdurahman Wahid, as head of Indonesia's most prominent Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, has taken "moral responsibility" for the violent incidents because many rioters likely belonged to the group.

In a related development, youth leaders, including Christians, Muslims, and Hindus, have formed the Nationality Forum for Indonesian Youth, which has the enhancing of cooperation and communication among religious groups as a primary goal.

TENSION PERSISTS: Nevertheless, rioting has not fully ended. On June 15 on the island of Madura in East Java province, rioters burned shops, a movie theater, a church, and a Buddhist temple in Bangkalan. The Madurese ethnic group is known for provincial attitudes and staunch adherence to Islam. But many observers consider Indonesia's uncertain and tense political circumstances at least as significant a factor as religious or ethnic feelings.

The May 29 general election, won handily—and, many assert, fraudulently—by the ruling Golkar party, was the most violent in Indonesia's history.

Supporters of the country's only two legal opposition parties, and others holding antigovernment views, are systematically excluded from political decision making ...

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