Christians Under Threat in Central Indonesia

Jihad fighters foiled in initial bid to massacre Tentena Christians.

Over 2,000 fighters from the extremist Muslim Laskar Jihad were foiled in their attempt to attack Christians of Tentena who have fled recent fighting in the Poso region of Central Sulawesi in Indonesia.

After a five-day campaign that saw the jihad force sack four villages with bulldozers and other heavy vehicles, the plan was to attack Tentena on December 1. But at 4:30 p.m. on November 30, five truckloads of army troops arrived at Tentena to provide protection, then drove to Poso to guard other villagers.

Still, the danger of massacre remains high to Tentena-area Christians, who number more than 30,000.

The conflict escalated in November in this volatile area of central Indonesia, which has seen three years of Muslim-Christian fighting and 2,500 deaths. Laskar Jihad forces, apparently trained by Afghan and Pakistani militants, launched a major offensive on November 25, overrunning four villages in the Poso area: Patawunga, Tangkura, Sangginura, and Dewua.

An urgent appeal to the Minister of Defense and Security was issued by the Synod of the Christian Church of Central Sulawesi in Tentena. The Rev. Tobondo and the Rev. Sigilipu-Saino wrote on November 29, "On behalf of the entire church membership in Poso area, we hereby inform you that we are at this very moment being terrorized and attacked by rioters from every side." They concluded bleakly, "Please help us, sir, in a matter of hours/minutes, the rioters are going to enter Tentena and finish us off."

For once, Jakarta acted swiftly. Following a Cabinet meeting on the morning of November 30, the order was given to defend Tentena. By 4:30 that afternoon, the army had arrived in sufficient numbers to deter an attack.

"To some of us, this is seen as not far short of a miracle, ...

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July/August
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