Riots in Indonesia:
E-mail messages from residents
Suggestions for helping Indonesian Christians

Subject: Re: +CAHT-L+ INE / Riots in Indonesia
(Four E-mail messages from residents)

>See Singapore's Straits Times today, for a report by their
>Indonesia Correspondent. Is Indonesia slowly descending
>into mob rule? What can churches outside Indonesia
>do besides praying? Welcome your assessment.

It is noteworthy that this story was also picked up by the BBC 
almost immediately, although without some of the details in the 
accounts of eyewitnesses, and with the more international angle of 
Suharto's urging religious groups to respect one another. This 
kind of international attention is all to the good at the moment. 
Let me suggest four concrete steps in addition to prayer.

1. Let Indonesian Christians know that we are behind them, and 
offer the support which they feel is appropriate.

2. Let our respective governments know that this is a matter for 
which we have a concern, and that we would appreciate that concern 
being reflected in both public and private foreign policy 
decisions. I don't mean that big western states should interfer 
with Indonesia's internal affairs. However, in so far as many 
nations in the West and Asia have substantial investments in 
Indonesia, and large numbers of their citizens residing in 
Indonesia, they do have a stake in the internal stablility of 
Indonesian society. In particular it needs to be stressed that it 
is both in Indonesia's interests, and that of their economic 
partners, that the country not become isolated or limited to 
Islamic countries as sources of foreign investment. And continued 
mob rule by overtly Islamic groups will certainly both deter 
positive investment and encourage investment from the wrong 
sources. 

3. Tell those we know in the business community of the true scope 
of these events and our concerns for them. International business 
isn't without a conscience, but it does need some pricking once 
and awhile. Again I think encouraging businesses to stick with 
Indonesia, rather than leaving it isolated, is important. Its also 
important to point out that it is increasingly in their own 
interests to use their political connections to point out the 
dangerous directions these riots are carrying the country. A 
positive side of business is that it can be a conservative force 
in politics, less willing than politicians to gamble on risky 
stratagies to stay in power. (Put in other words, business is less 
committed than politicians to any particular political 
personality, and is therefore less willing to risk social 
stability to keep such persons in power.) At least one possibility 
in these riots is that they represent political stratagies of a 
very dangerous type. Businessmen can help politicians see more 
clearly that those who "sow the wind", risk "reaping a whirlwind" 
which they cannot control. 

4. We need to communicate to Muslim leaders in the Nadatul Ulama 
and Muhammadiya (who have condemned the violence) our concerns, as 
well as our appreciation for the efforts they have made to contain 
the situation. This needs to be done as people with a common 
concern for peace.

Ultimately Indonesia will be controlled by the mob if the only 
means of expressing discontent and manifesting political power is 
by bringing people onto the streets. As long as the political 
system is closed and there are large numbers of people living in 
poverty there will be an escalation of violence. Christians will 
continue to be targets because by religion, and often ethnicity, 
they are seen as aliens. In the end we must pray for democracy in 
Indonesia.


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