Maluku Islands again a violent center of Christian-Muslim wars
Less than a month ago, journalists were reporting peace in Indonesia's Maluku Islands. "A peace deal signed in 2002 appears to be holding and on the region's main island Ambon, the first tentative steps towards reconciliation are now being taken," reported the BBC's Rachel Harvey.
About a year ago, Christianity Today's Jeff M. Sellers reported the tragic reason for the "peace"—after more than 5,000 people were killed in two years of religious warfare, Muslim extremists had completed their mission. "They're done with religious cleansing there," Freedom House's Paul Marshall said. "There are refugees who have fled, and there are refugees who have been driven out of their villages but are starting to move back."
Last weekend, the religious violence moved back, too. Trouble reportedly began at a parade of some local separatists.
"Police arrested people trying to raise the banned flag of a little known and mostly Christian rebel group, the South Maluku Republic Movement, on the anniversary of a failed independence bid 54 years ago," Reuters said.
Violence broke out with six people killed and dozens more injured. Retaliation escalated, and by Tuesday afternoon the official death toll was 31, with 145 injured.
"In a particularly telling incident one man, likely a Christian according to local people, was stabbed to death at the Yos Sudarso port in Ambon, as he was trying to escape from a Muslim area," The Jakarta Post reports.
The paper says that clashes "finally began to tail off" yesterday: "Ambon was a ghost town as night fell, as the hundreds of police paramilitary reinforcements were deployed to the troubled city to prevent the conflict from escalating."
United Nations employee Olin Tutamahu told the AFP news agency, "We seem to have gone instantly back to the same conditions as at the beginning of the conflict in 1999. The Christians remain in their sector and the Muslims remain in theirs."
"It's still tense in some spots, but less so than yesterday," police spokesman Endro Prasetyo told Reuters. "We can hear gunfire but it's not often."
Still, the paramilitaries' presence does not mean peace has returned to the area. Australian media are reporting that hardline Muslim leaders in Jakarta have promised to send "7,000 Islamic warriors" to move the clash into the next phase.
"The clash in Ambon that erupted last Sunday has the potential to be used by certain groups to provoke the people of Ambon into becoming involved in a prolonged conflict like that in 1999," Natan Setiabudi, chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches, told The Jakarta Post. He also said that Christians in Ambon don't support the South Maluku Republic Movement. Unfortunately, the Muslim extremists who torched local Christians homes and schools (including the Indonesian Christian university) don't seem to care.
- Attacked, expelled, ignored | Sudan's war on the people of Darfur (Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times Magazine)
- Stalling in Sudan | Sudan should not be allowed to get away with denying U.N. officials visas and refusing to live up to its cease-fire promises (Editorial, The Washington Post)
Priest arrested for nun's 1980 death:
- In stunned city, priest is arraigned in killing of nun | A Roman Catholic priest in Toledo, Ohio, was arraigned on a murder charge in the killing of a nun 24 years ago (The New York Times)
- Victims' group faults reaction by local diocese | Priest accused of killing nun on radar for a year, SNAP says (The Toledo Blade)
- Priest accused of murdering nun in 1980 | Holy Saturday slaying occurred in Mercy chapel
- Quiet cleric not well-known by his neighbors, colleagues (The Toledo Blade)
- Allegations renew nun's death case | Priest arrested in '80 slaying surfaced in ritual-abuse claim (The Toledo Blade)
- Ex-officer: Priest was suspected early in case | Retiree questions police inquiry of nun's slaying (The Toledo Blade)
- Area authorities no strangers to cult, ritual probes | The recent investigation into the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl wasn't the first time authorities have come across the possibility of satanic rituals in northwest Ohio (The Toledo Blade)
Priest jailed for major embezzlement:
- Judge raps priest, jails him 7 1/2 years | He took and misused $5.1 million in church funds but has shown no remorse and is a disgrace, she says (The Straits Times, Singapore)
- I did no wrong, my conscience is clear | An exclusive interview with Joachim Kang (The Straits Times, Singapore)
- Priest jailed for embezzling $3m (BBC)
- The Joachim Kang fan club | Supporters of convicted priest posted his $1.2 million bail and pleaded for him (The Straits Times, Singapore)
- The Joachim Kang pan club | Some are disgusted, think he betrayed parishioners' trust, wish him defrocked (The Straits Times, Singapore)
Stealing Christian music:
- Praise God and pass the music files | Like other niche genres, Christian music is "disproportionately popular" on file-sharing services, said Eric Garland, chief executive of BigChampagne, because fans want to collect every song, and because they can't always find them at the mall (The New York Times)
- Gospel pirates | Illegal downloading as a faith-based enterprise (Editorial, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
U.K. issues religious education guidelines:
- Religious education lessons 'to respect all faiths' | Pupils aged three to 19 in England will study Christianity at each stage, with other major faiths being looked at, but in less detail (BBC)
- Schools to teach UK's six main religions | Children should begin to learn about another religion alongside Christianity from the age of five, according to new government guidelines on teaching religious education published yesterday (The Independent, London)
- Humanism becomes one of the new gods of religious education | Humanism, attitudes to sexuality and the ethics of wealth are to be taught alongside Christianity and other faiths in the first national curriculum for religious education (The Telegraph, London)
- Religious education framework published (PA, U.K.)
- Ministers' guide on teaching religion | Atheism and other secular philosophies can be taught to children aged seven and up - if schools decide it is "appropriate", according to the first national religious education guidelines (The Journal, Newcastle, England)
United Methodist General Conference previews:
- Methodists to focus on lesbian minister | After three decades of disagreement over what the Bible says about homosexuality, the church trial of a lesbian minister has sharpened the debate for the United Methodist Church as it prepares for a national meeting that occurs once every four years (Associated Press)
- Gay issues on agenda for Methodists | General Conference may clarify wording (The Denver Post)
- Homosexuality to dominate Methodist convention | Over the next two weeks of deliberations, delegates from Methodist churches across the country will decide whether to change the church's Book of Discipline to allow gay ministers and perhaps bless gay unions (Morning Edition, NPR)
- Methodist General Conference to tackle agenda ranging from gays to pensions (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Methodists' meeting to address hot issues | Divide in Bush's church on war, gay marriages reflects nation's discord (Detroit Free Press)
- Methodists face world of change | A lot has happened since the last time the United Methodist Church held a General Conference in 2000 (Cary McMullen, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.)
- United Methodists to debate homosexual-clergy policies (The Toledo Blade)
Gay marriage in Massachusetts:
- Romney: gay outsiders can't marry in Mass. | The state will prohibit gay couples who live outside of Massachsetts from marrying here when gay marriage becomes legal next month, a senior aide to Governor Mitt Romney said yesterday (The Boston Globe)
- 'Follow the law' on marriage, Massachusetts tells officials | Justices of the peace in Massachusetts must perform same-sex marriages when they become legal in the state next month, state officials said (The New York Times)
- Marriage restriction debated | Under Romney plan, couples face checks (The Boston Globe)
- Mass. seeks compliance on gay weddings | Gov. Mitt Romney's top legal counsel told the state's justices of the peace Sunday to resign if they are unwilling to preside over same-sex marriages beginning next month (Associated Press)
- After May 17, marriage is no cake walk, gays are told | Gay couples will have the right to get married May 17 in Massachusetts, but many may find that the questions over marriage benefits may have only begun, a panel of lawyers and probate judge said yesterday (The Boston Globe)
- Lawmakers insist SJC overstepped | Claiming the state's highest court does not have jurisdiction over marriage, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm will file a lawsuit on behalf of a group of legislators in an effort to prevent same-sex marriages from taking place (The Herald News, Fall River, Ma.)
- Mass. Gov. to ban gay marriage for out-of-state couples | Gay rights groups criticized Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Monday for his decision to forbid gay couples from other states from marrying in his jurisdiction and called the move unconstitutional (Reuters)
Dublin's Catholic archbishop replaced:
- Archbishop of Dublin, under fire, is replaced | Cardinal Desmond Connell had been widely criticized for his handling of sexual abuse scandals by members of the clergy in Ireland (The New York Times)
- Vatican replaces Dublin's archbishop | The Vatican removed Cardinal Desmond Connell as the archbishop of Dublin on Monday after years of criticism that he didn't do enough to stop sexual abuse by priests (Associated Press)
- Archbishop Martin disagrees with Vatican over Eucharist | The new Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Diarmuid Martin, yesterday disagreed with the Vatican that priests should refuse Communion to politicians who adopt a pro-choice stance on abortion (The Irish Times)
Lutheran abuse judgment:
- Lutherans dealing with sex abuse scandal | Lutherans who filled church pews Sunday were determined not to let a sexual abuse scandal that led to millions in court awards and legal settlements lessen their faith in their leaders (Associated Press)
- Lutheran bishop regrets minister's abuse | Lutheran Bishop Kevin S. Kanouse apologized Friday to victims of a former minister convicted of molesting boys, a day after his synod was hit with a nearly $37 million verdict in a sexual abuse lawsuit (Associated Press)
Searching for Noah's ark:
- Entrepreneur to fund Ark search | A Roman Catholic entrepreneur from Honolulu is funding a $900,000 expedition to find Noah's Ark this summer, after a record heat wave last year revealed what could be a large man-made object on the northeastern slopes of Turkey's Mount Ararat (The Washington Times)
- Expedition will seek to find Noah's ark | An expedition is being planned for this summer to the upper reaches of Turkey's Mount Ararat where organizers hope to prove an object nestled amid the snow and ice is Noah's Ark (Associated Press)
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