International Christian Concern (ICC) and Christian Aid are attempting to raise $1.2 million in order to take 7,000 Indonesian Christians by boat to safer areas. In March, the groups evacuated 235 Christians from an area south of Halmahera, where members of the Muslim majority have burned entire villages and murdered non-Muslims. ICC and Christian Aid are transporting refugees to northern parts of the island, where Christians have managed to form a stronghold. Violence erupted between Christians and Muslims in the Maluku Islands in January 1999. The conflict, which originated on the island of Ambon, is now spreading into more densely populated areas of the Maluku Islands, a province in eastern Indonesia with 1.7 million people on about 1,000 islands.
Between 5,000 and 8,000 Christians and Muslims have died, and more than 500,000 have been forced from their homes. Muslim extremists have incited mob violence and have pledged to purge the area of all Christians. Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, with Christians making up a sizable minority of the nation's 210 million people.
Steven Snyder, president of ICC, says he felt compelled to help Indonesian Christians after visiting the country in February. "We saw entire villages that were destroyed," Snyder said. "We visited with refugees—some with families that had escaped after being forcibly circumcised." Christian refugees also report forced conversions to Islam. Snyder says the groups have currently raised about 25 percent of the funds needed to relocate the 7,000 Indonesians living in make-shift refugee camps. "As soon as money comes in, we're channeling it over there," Snyder says. Costs for the mission ($160 per person) include boats, food, and security. Indonesian Christians, Snyder says, believe that foreign intervention is necessary to resolve the deeply rooted conflict. "Christians are calling for the United Nations to intervene," he said. "They feel [as if] they are never going to regain their homeland without peacekeeping efforts."
Although Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a Muslim scholar, has condemned the violence, many Christians suspect that some Indonesian officials have contributed to the clashes. "With the Indonesian government," Snyder said, "there needs to be an effort to pull the reins on their own military, who are aiding these jihads."
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International Christian Concern and Christian Aid both have more information about the genocide and the rescue, and are accepting online donations (ICC | CA).
Previous Christianity Today stories about Indonesia include:
Indonesian Province's Anniversary Protest Controlled | Violence was anticipated from independence fighters who massacred non-Papuan Christians last month. (Dec. 4, 2000)
Christians and Muslims Still Fighting, Dying in Ambon | Governor, others decline to intervene in jihad attacks. (Oct. 4, 2000)
Indonesian Island Attacks Go Unnoticed | World ignoring plight of Christians in Ambon, visitors say. (Aug. 21, 2000)
Daily Life in the Maluku Islands: Chaos, Fear, and the Threat of Violence | Christians plead for international monitoring to prevent Jihad raids, and more aid for refugees. (Aug. 1, 2000)
Churches Pressure for Swift Action to Calm Maluku Violence | Indonesian army joining in attacks on Christians. (July 21, 2000)
Indonesian Religious Riot Death Toll Dwarfs 30 New Corpses | Death count has passed 1,700. (Mar.3, 2000)
Maluku Islands Unrest Spreads to Greater Indonesia | Violence on Lombok Island may hasten government intervention. (Jan. 25, 2000)
Ministries Intensify As East Timorese Refugee Camps Grow | Evangelicals working furiously to meet physical and spiritual needs. (Sept. 6, 1999)
Dozens Die in New Clashes | 95 killed in religious riots in Maluku province. (Mar. 1, 1999)
Christians Killed, Churches Burned | Muslim mobs vent their rage against Indonesian Christians. (Jan. 11, 1999)
Muslim Mobs Destroy Churches | 10 Protestant churches severely damaged in riots. (Sept. 16, 1996)