Our whole community must be greatly concerned at the news of the escalation of violence between Muslim and Christians groups, particularly near the town of Poso in Central Sulawesi in Indonesia, our near neighbour. Already many people have been killed, hundreds of homes have been destroyed, and there is increased fear that further disturbance and bloodshed will add to the already massive death toll. Reports say that many Christian churches and villages have been destroyed.
As a consequence, people from this area are fleeing from their homes for safety and they are being joined to a frightening global statistic - the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes, from persecution, violence and war.
According to CNN, the BBC and other press reports, many thousands of people, both Christian and Muslim have fled to the town of Tentena which is threatened by attack from the Laskar Jihad members, who fly flags depicting Osama bin Laden as their leader. CNN reports that this is the group that has caused this latest violence in Indonesia, and also that some of its commanders received training in Afghanistan. The UN also warned early this week that heavily armed Muslin fighters are preparing to attack Christian villagers in Sulawesi, and that there is an estimated 7,000 Muslim guerillas in the region.
We must all be gratified to see the news that Prime Minister Howard will hold a summit meeting with the President of Indonesia, Megawati Sukarnoputri when he travels to Indonesia in February or March next year. He must express to her our concern at the emergence of Jihad in this region. Let us also remember to pray for her, especially in her leadership in her great but troubled nation.
It may seem from this far distance that there is little that we can do. However the Bible teaches that God hears our prayers when we seek his path and call upon him. We must pray therefore: * that God will look with mercy on these despairing people, *that peace will return to this troubled area; *that the people will seek ways to live peacefully together and in safety; and *that all of them, whether Christian or Muslim will be restrained from doing violence to their neighbour.
There are further actions we can take as near neighbours of Indonesia. We can write to Mr Downer the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and also to the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia, urging them to exert every pressure and to take every possible action to bring this clash of peoples to an end so that the suffering is ended, family and personal security is restored, and religious conflict is no more.
Address for the Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Hon Alexander Downer MP
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Address for the Indonesian Ambassador
His Excellency Mr S Wiryono
Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia
8 Darwin Avenue
Yarralumla ACT 2600