Threats against Christian churches: return of strategy of tension even in Sulawesi

» 09/21/2011 13:12
INDONESIA

by Mathias Hariyadi
Telephone messages warning of attacks against Catholic and Protestant churches, but they are hoaxes. Police are investigating but it is not clear whether it is political propaganda or conflict of a religious nature. Sulawesi Priest calls for “fellow citizens” not to get carried away “by feelings of hatred.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A campaign is underway in Indonesia to exacerbate sectarian tensions which could lead to new clashes between Christians and Muslims after the recent violence in Ambon and the Moluccas. At the moment the “mastermind” interested in creating new incidents of conflict is unknown, the police cannot clarify whether it is a question of political propaganda or confessional tensions. The fact remains that on frequent occasions in recent days, text messages and other messages have been circulated – all hoaxes – denouncing attacks on Catholic churches and Christian places of worship in various parts of the archipelago.

Fr. Jimmy Tumbelaka, a priest of the Diocese of Manado, North Sulawesi, has corrected the rumors that recently spread among journalists and human rights activists, according to whom two Catholic churches and a protestant house of prayer were burned in Poso. The priest originally from Manado explains that “only the main entrance to the church of Santa Teresa in Poso was burned, not the entire building.” In the past, the place of worship was the most important Catholic church in Poso. On May 23, 2000 it was violently attacked by extremist groups, who have fire to the building. Fr. Tumbelaka personally experienced sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in Poso between 1998 and 2001. He has also fought vigorously for the release of three Catholics – Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu and Dominggus da Silva – sentenced to death and executed over the Muslim-Christian clashes. The priest strongly urges “my fellow Indonesians, from all factions, not to get carried away by feelings of hatred against others.”

The propaganda designed to exacerbate sectarian tension is confirmed by Theophilus Bela, an activist for human rights and interreligious dialogue, who has recently been sent texts messages speaking of attacks against minorities. “After Ambon, now here in Poso – reports the activist, reading a text message that arrived on his phone to AsiaNews – A Pentecostal church is going to be burned, along with a Catholic church in Poso.” But it took just a quick test, to confirm that the news was unfounded. It he concludes, is “orchestrated news”.

Ifdhal Kasim, president of the National Commission for Human Rights, does not exclude that the violence of 11 September 2011 in the Moluccas (Ambon see AsiaNews 09/19/11: Ambon: calm returns, but Islamic fundamentalists launch holy war with text messages) is the result of an “orchestrated” strategy of tension in the country.

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