Indonesia frees head of Laskar Jihad
Jaffar Umar Thalib, the radical Muslim head of the paramilitary group Laskar Jihad, was acquitted by an Indonesian court today on charges of inciting Muslims to attack Christians. Judge Mansur Nasution said the prosecution didn't prove its case, though there was evidence that he told his followers "to prepare our bombs and ready our guns" two days before they killed 13 people in the Christian village of Soya.

"The real mistake was in not charging him with some of the really serious acts of violence of Laskar Jihad," Sidney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group, tells The New York Times. "Thousands of his followers were perpetrating violence against Christians from early 2000 to early 2002. We're talking about thousands of people killed by both sides in the Malukus." Reliable estimates put the death toll above 5,000.

"The verdict could give renewed vigor to Islamic radicals who have been on the defensive in Indonesia since the terrorist blast in Bali last October," the Times reports.

"The lack of resolve at this time is probably all the worse because of the situation in Iraq," Ken Conboy, head of security risk company RMA Indonesia, told Reuters. "So with his acquittal, that is probably sending all the wrong messages."

The acquittal is even more unjust than it seems. Only two days ago, two Christian leaders were sentenced to three years imprisonment merely for campaigning for an independent state in the Malukus—something they say is needed because the Indonesian government is not protecting them from attacks by Laskar Jihad.

Alex Manuputty, who was tried in absentia, told the Associated Press he would "resist the verdict in a nonviolent way." But Jafar Umar Thalib says Manuputty's sentence is unjust in a different way: "He should have been jailed for 15 years," he told the BBC. Prosecutors had requested only a one-year prison sentence for Thalib.

Meanwhile, pastor and peace activist Rinaldy Damanik, general secretary of the Protestant Church of Central Sulawesi Synod, is being held for allegedly carrying weapons even though reports say there's no evidence to support the claim. Damanik was reportedly encouraging Christians not to retaliate against Muslims at the time of his arrest.

More articles

AIDS in Africa:

Article continues below
  • How Bush got wise to world AIDS crisis | His treasury secretary, his spiritual counsellor, his most trusted security advisers, his Republican colleagues, all urged him to make history (The Globe & Mail, Toronto)

Faith-based initiative:

  • Bush's agenda walks the church-state line | President Bush's State of the Union address underscored a striking element of his presidency: the extent to which he is influenced by his Christian faith. (USA Today)

  • Faith-based funding abuses the Constitution | This proposed policy change in the Department of Housing and Urban Development should not see the light of day (Editorial, The Detroit Free-Press)

  • Faith-based treatment already gets federal funds | "We license faith-based organizations all the time," says Donald Eubanks, director of chemical health for Minnesota's Department of Human Services (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

  • Two faith-based proposals may face legal challenge | Civil liberties groups said yesterday they are weighing legal challenges to two proposed new twists in the Bush administration's faith-based initiative: the use of vouchers to fund religion-oriented drug rehabilitation programs and the use of federal housing funds to pay for construction of buildings where worship is held  (The Washington Post)

  • Major escalation in church-state fight | Jewish groups split on new proposal to fund building projects for religious institutions (The Jewish Week)

Politics and law:

Article continues below
  • Moluccan Christian leaders sentenced | Alex Manuputty, 55, and Samuel Waileruny, 45, were on trial in absentia in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, for campaigning for an independent state in the Moluccans. (BBC)

  • The President rides out | George Bush's foes see him as an inarticulate bully. Friends say that evangelical faith underpins his every action (The Observer, London)

Religious freedom and discrimination:

State orders fired worker be rehired:

Evolution and creationism:


Article continues below
  • Churchgoing Hispanics do better at school, study finds | Hispanic immigrants who regularly attend church are more likely to do well in school and reverse high drop-out rates, especially in impoverished school districts, according to a study released yesterday (The Washington Times)

Life ethics:


  • Man damaged church because he couldn't light candle | his lighter wouldn't work, so he allegedly decapitated nativity statues, destroyed about 100 candles, and splintered a marble lectern with a 4-foot brass candlestick (Ananova)

  • Priest's family awaits news on remains | For 19 years, the family of a missing St. Louis priest has traveled tens of thousands of miles and besieged elected and military officials in two countries in search of answers to the disappearance of the Rev. James Carney (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

  • Minister accused in ID theft | Being a single mother and multiple amputee have tested Karen Belton's faith many times. But the ultimate test came last year, said Belton, 42, when she suspected her pastor of fraud. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Honduras: Remains are probably priest's | Honduran officials said they believe they have located the remains of a Jesuit American priest who disappeared during the government's campaign against leftists in the early 1980s (Associated Press)

Money and business:

  • Let us now pray … for Accu-Fab | Three years ago Gregg Page and Dennis Zullig decided that spreading the glory of God—not making money—would be their company's top priority. They had no idea how deeply the experience would test their faith (Inc.)

  • Jesus sells | What the Christian culture industry tells us about secular society (Jeremy Lott, Reason Online)


Article continues below

Other religions:

Missions and ministry:

  • Church leaders propose a plan to create the broadest-ever U.S. Christian alliance | The steering committee of the budding effort, tentatively called Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., will invite a wide range of national church bodies and agencies over the next several weeks to join them (Associated Press)

  • The force multiplier | Rick Warren is preaching, selling millions of books, and changing American culture. And you've probably never even heard of him (The Weekly Standard Online)

  • Church under fire over homes for elderly | The Uniting Church's aged-care program is under scrutiny, with the Federal Government imposing sanctions against a Brighton hostel run by the church (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Cross purposes | Federally funded missionaries threaten a Southeast Asian culture (Village Voice)
Article continues below


Church life:

Sexual ethics:

  • Catholics push gay-cure tour, critics lash 'harmful effect' | The support of Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, George Pell, for an American psychologist who claims homosexuality is a curable disorder will only result in "untold grief, anxiety and confusion", a leading Australian psychologist has warned (The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Baptist church embraces lesbian minister | Sometime soon, the church probably will be disfellowshipped from the Southern Baptist Convention, which has taken similar action against about a dozen other churches since 1988 that acted to ''approve, affirm or endorse'' homosexual behavior (The Tennessean)

Clergy sex abuse:

Art, media, and culture:

  • Am I anti-gay? | Activists are upset with an ad my magazine accepted, but advertising and editorial are two different things. (Robert Epstein, Psychology Today)

Article continues below


Other stories of interest:

Related Elsewhere

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to

What is Weblog?

See our past Weblog updates:

January 29 | 28 | 27
January 24 | 23 | 22 | 21 | 20
January 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13
January 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6
January 3 | 2 | December 31 | 30
December 27 | 26
December 19 | 18 | 17 | 16