Indonesian Catholic Church Compound
Under Jihad Militant Attack

CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE
For immediate release
November 23, 2001
 
JIHAD militants and security forces have been fighting gun battles as the
militants seek to control a Catholic diocesan training compound in Ambon
city.
 
The complex, which is in the Karang Panjang area of the city in the Moluccas
Islands, has been fought over in the past due to its position on a hill
overlooking several Christian neighbourhoods.
 
The conflict has raged for the last week over the Catholic complex, as well
as a disabled children's compound, according to Father Böhm of the Catholic
Crisis Centre, a human rights information centre.
 
The strategically located Gonzalo Veloso compound overlooks several
Christian neighbourhoods such as Belakang Soya and Batumeja and also allows
easy access to surrounding Christian villages such as Soya.
 
The aims of the attack are reported to be to use the complex as a Jihad
training centre and to use the strategic location of the compound to attack
the surrounding Christian neighbourhoods.
 
Father Böhm added that if the complex fell into the hands of the militants,
they would not only be able to attack the Christian areas but also to cut
off the road to Soya village, the only escape route available for the
Christians living in surrounding areas.
 
The Laskar Jihad's current training centre is situated close to the scene of
the conflict.
 
Baroness Cox, CSW's President and a deputy speaker of the House of Lords,
visited the scene of the attack in July 2001. She said: "We understand that
the President Megawati and the Indonesian government are supportive of
religious freedom and tolerance in Indonesia and are facing a sensitive
internal situation.

"However, reconciliation efforts in the Moluccas have little chance of
success if Laskar Jihad is allowed to continue its campaign of provoking
violence between the Christian and Muslim communities. Delegations of both
Muslims and Christians have approached the authorities to ask for their
removal as a precondition to reconciliation."
 
In response to the renewed upsurge of violence, which flared up again at the
beginning of November, Christians in Ambon have brought the city to a near
standstill with a three-day prayer vigil, which began on November 20.
 
The prayer vigil, called Hari Perkabungan, meaning Days of Mourning, was
organized in response to the escalating violence.

Thousands of people took part in the events, which included prayer
gatherings at public offices, homes and churches.

Although people working in the hospital and security sectors were on duty,
most other public and private offices were temporarily shut.
 
Leo Lohy, Deputy Chairman of the Maluku Protestant Church Synod told The
Jakarta Post: "These prayers are a display of concern about all the violence
that has taken place during a relatively calm period in Maluku. In this way
we call on all people to assess themselves and completely put their fate in
God's hands."
 
The Christian village of Waimulang in Buru was attacked on November 1 by
Jihad militants who killed four villagers. More than a thousand residents
and several hundred refugees managed to flee to the jungle, but their
village was razed to the ground.
 
Since then, there have been a number of bombings and armed attacks on Ambon,
including the bombing of an electrical appliance store on November 12, which
left two people dead and about 20 wounded.
 
The recent violence is widely believed to the work of the militant Jihad
organization, Laskar Jihad, which has about 3,000 militants in the Moluccas,
including a number of foreign militia.
 
Jafar Umar Thalib, the leader of the organization, which is linked with
international Jihad movements, visited the Moluccas region at the end of
October.
 
He made a number of inflammatory speeches and called for the continuation of
the violence against Christian communities, reportedly stating that the "war
would not be over until Muslims could celebrate Idul Fitr [the feast at the
end of Ramadan] in Kudamati, Passo, Saparua and other Christian locations".
Since then, the violence has steadily escalated.

CSW has been working together with Muslim and Christian communities in the
Moluccas to promote reconciliation between the two communities. Based on
their recommendations, CSW has continued to call on the Indonesian
authorities to bring to justice those instigating the violence in the
region, such as Jafar Umar Thalib, the leader of Laskar Jihad.

For more information, photos, or interviews with Baroness Cox or Father
Böhm, contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8949
0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email richard.chilvers@csw.org.uk.


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