Churches Put Pressure for Swift Action to Calm Maluku Violence

Indonesian army joining in attacks on Christians.

As more reports emerge of Indonesian army involvement in Muslim attacks on Christians in the Maluku islands, churches and related agencies in Indonesia and around the world are calling for swift action to stem the violence which reportedly threatens the region's entire Christian community. At least 28 people died in fighting in recent days, according to international press reports, in a continuing intercommunal conflict that broke out in January 1999 and has flared up repeatedly since then. Press reports estimate that 4,000 people have been killed in the past 18 months as Christians and Muslims have attacked each other. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes as villages are reorganized along sectarian lines.Many observers point to the arrival in the islands in late May of thousands of Muslim "warriors" from outside Maluku pledging to mount a jihad (holy war) against Christians as being the cause of the latest upsurge in violence. There are also reports from the island of Halmahera in North Maluku of Christian militia training to fight Muslims.Last week Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in Geneva, called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, to make an immediate, investigative visit to the Maluku islands. Raiser said the violence was resulting in "grave and serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity."Raiser's call followed an appeal from the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), which groups many of the country's Protestant churches. The PGI called for support from world church bodies and the United Nations, and declared that the attacks were intended to eradicate "the presence of Christians and the church ...

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