Indonesia: Some observations from the field (10/15/96)

Indonesia: Some observations from the field (10/15/96)

For your information and so that you get a little fuller picture of 
what is going on with all this, I also wanted to give you the following 
information. All of this is printed yesterday and today in both 
English in the Jakarta Post and in Indonesian in other dailies.

There were over 10,000 rioters involved. First, the court house in
Situbondo was burned by a mob angry because a high school kid. Saleh,
who said in a speech that Muhammad was not the messenger of God, was
going to be sentenced to only five years in prison for blasphemy
instead of given the death penalty. Within five hours 21 churches,
five christian schools, and an orphanage were destroyed along with
some stores in a plaza and a few vehicles. Five Christians were
dead, one was a woman who was physically handicapped.

The following is from the Jakarta Post the past two days. This is 
not being held back from the people as expected.

Headline: Gus Dur begs forgiveness for raids on churches
The Jakarta Post, Monday, reported that Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, the
chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama, asked for the nation's forgiveness
for the attacks on the churches which were perpetrated mostly by
members of the NU. Abdurrahman, better known as Gus Dur was quoted as
saying, "I bow my head and ask for forgiveness for the loss inflicted
on the government and the public. My deepest condolences for those
who died and were wounded in the incident." 

Headline: Religious leaders denounce attacks on churches
The Jakarta Post, Tuesday, "the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) 
denounced the attacks perpetrated by angry mobs... saying that Islam
does not condone inter-faith enmity." "The chairman of the council
of ulemas, Hasan Basri, called on all religious groups, especially 
Moslems (why the Jakarta Post uses that spelling is beyond me...) to 
be wary of the campaigns of 'certain parties' to divide the country.
Prophet Muhammad forbade Moslems from committing violence, killing 
monks, women and children, or burning houses of worship, even during
wars." Hasan said.

I quoted the above to let you know that this kind of unprecedented
acknowlegement of wrong doing is amazing, and Christians are
surprised to hear Islamic leaders going this far. HOWEVER, where the
pressure needs to be applied is to the government, which MUST
PUBLICLY CONDEMN the burning of churches and persecution of
Christians by Muslims. 

Those responsible must be arrested, prosecuted, and punished to the
SAME EXTENT as the members of the PRD party who are being prosecuted
for the riots in Jakarta in July which also resulted in loss of life
and property. If the leaders of the PRD are being accused of
"treason" which is punishable by death, then also those responsible
for this riot must be charged with treason (notice the reference by
Hasan above to 'certain parties' who want to divide the country,
un-named of course). 

Important questions: How is it that churches in both Surabaya
(earlier in June) and Situbondo were all attacked at almost the same
time by various sized groups of rioters in all those different
widespread places? There is no doubt a conspiracy here, and the
question that follows is, "Who has enough authority in the lives of
10,000 Muslims to organize such widespread violence?"

Last of all, I just wanted to say that these events are 
marvelous opportunities for Indonesia to progress, if the government 
will just do what is right. However, I fear that it is unlikely that 
any real change will occur without a great deal of external pressure 
from the human rights groups and from other governments. Indonesia 
is so very sensitive to that kind of pressure. 

Add all this it Pres. Clinton's "Asiagate", the Nobel prize going to
Mr. Horta, the 'national car" scandal, the Megawati ousting and
riots, and a dozen other internal and external problems, and you have
a major political crisis brewing. My hope and prayer is that in it
all, there will soon come a day when the majority of Muslims in
Indonesia will truly submit to the will of God. In that day,
Indonesia will be well on its way to becoming the country that
Sukarno and Soeharto and a million others have dreamed of. 


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