Notes from the field
Indonesia:
Burning in Tasikmalaya
December 28, 1996

As if there hasn't been enough headline news about Indonesia 
during the year of 1996, now just before year end--before the 
Indonesian Christians could scarcely finish their Christmas 
candles--on the morning of Thursday, December 26, a riot hit the 
streets of Tasikmalaya, a town in Western Java.

In some aspects this incident was not that much different from the 
Situbondo incident where 25 churches were burned down and 5 people 
were burned to death inside a church building on October 10, 1996. 
This time a three-day clash between a student (whose parent was a 
police officer), and his teacher in an Islamic school (Pesantren) 
resulted in several physical encounters, finally climaxing itself 
in a big riot. This "internal" case, just like in Situbondo, has 
turned Tasikmalaya and the surrounding towns into dead towns, as 
the military has now issued a nightly curfew.

According to some eyewitnesses, this riot may be bigger than the 
one in Situbondo. Apparently the riot was not only directed 
against Christians, but also against Indonesian ethnic Chinese. 
The rioters attacked several government buildings, stores, a 
shopping mall, and churches. There are at least 4 confirmed dead 
so far: Mrs. Anton Sutedja (member of Indonesian Christian Church, 
found burned), Mrs. Geok Wiweh (found burned inside her store), 
one man (burned), and one male youth (hit by a truck). The 
following is a list of churches and schools burned and/or 
attacked:

1. Indonesian Christian Church
2. Indonesian Bethel Church
3. Pentecostal Church in Indonesia
4. Catholic Church
5. Catholic Church in Ciawi
6. Pentecostal Movement Church
7. Batak Protestant Church (HKBP)
8. Pasundan Christian Church
9. Tabernakel Bethel Church
10. New Apostolic Church
11. Imannuel Christian Church
12. Christian elementary and middle school BPK Penabur

With the July 27th crackdown against the Indonesia Democratic 
Party's head office in Jakarta, the June 9th Surabaya church 
attacks, the October 10 Situbondo church burnings, other smaller 
intervening incidents, and now the December 26 Tasikmalaya riots, 
this has certainly created an ominous anticipation regarding next 
year's upcoming 1997 general election. Some social and political 
analysts are becoming more and more convinced that all of these 
occurrences are not merely isolated incidents, nor are they solely 
a "Muslims against Christians" issue. Although a democratic 
republic, Indonesia has taken some quite drastic moves 
domestically, especially since the formation of the Indonesian 
Muslims Intellectual Association in 1990. One analyst said that 
when the New Order Government took charge, the Indonesian ethnic 
Chinese became the social scapegoat, and now it seems the 
Indonesian Christians have more recently assumed the role of a 
convenient target.


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