In the morass of civil strife still terrorizing residents of Indonesia's Maluku Islands after more than two years, Christian families are forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam in rituals that include genital mutilation for females and dull-bladed circumcision for males. Those who refuse to convert are killed by jihad warriors, who afterward display the severed heads of some victims as a warning to others.

News reports and fact-finding efforts by advocacy groups confirm that ordinary Christians on the islands of Ambon, Kesui, and Teor have been killed for refusing to convert to Islam since last year, when a Muslim jihad (holy war) militia launched a campaign to rid the area of Christianity. This armed "religious cleansing" began after a year of civil war had been waged with machetes, spears, and bows and arrows between Christians and Muslims, who previously lived together peaceably.

Indonesia is 83 percent Muslim. Christians make up 13 percent of the population, but the figure (including both Protestants and Catholics) is near 50 percent in parts of the Malukus. The arrival of the jihad warriors to Ambon, Kesui, and Teor from nearby islands reportedly came in response to nominally Christian gangs forcing Muslims to convert during the machete-and-spear phase of the conflict; some also suspect Muslim warriors came to quell the independence movement.

Government security forces sent to maintain order are ineffective, as well as divided—some supporting and others opposing President Abdurrahman Wahid. Within this context, in which at least 5,000 people on both sides have been killed, 3,000 armed jihad warriors have forced thousands of unarmed Christians in Ambon, Kesui, and Teor to flee to mountain jungles to escape death or forced ...

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