John Lilburne's journal about violence in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

 

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0947 L Wed 5 Dec 2001

The first reading today is Isaiah 25:6-10 about a banquet for all peoples.

In December 1993 I attended a tribal banquet on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. I still have a vivid memory of seeing a buffalo being killed there.

Its not a place I would recommend for a holiday today. The Age newspaper has a report on page 12 by Lindsay Murdoch:

Indonesia sends troops to Sulawesi

Christian leaders say Muslim fighters are massing for attacks.

More than 2500 extra Indonesian troops and police are being sent to central Sulawesi amid reports that Muslim fighters are preparing to attack Christian villages in a remote area where up to 150 people have been killed in sectarian clashes in the past two months. ...

Catholic priest Jimmy Tumbelaka said Muslim fighters had destroyed five villages between Poso and Tentena and now encircled Tentena, where villagers were preparing to fight.

"The Muslims have threatened to celebrate Idul Fitri (the end of the Muslim fasting month) in Christian Tentena while Christians have uttered a similar threat to celebrate Christmas in predominantly Muslim Poso," Father Jimmy said.

"And a civil war will likely erupt in Tentena if the Muslim militants attack because local people are ready with their traditional weapons to defend the town."

Church officials said that only about 25 security personnel were stationed in Tentena and the town would easily be captured unless reinforcements arrived. ...

Here is part of the description of Tentena in the January 2000 edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Indonesia:

Tentena, at the northern end of the lake, is larger and prettier than Pendolo, and is surrounded by clover-covered hills (from June to November the cloves are particularly aromatic). Tentena has excellent accomodation and a varied cuisine, but lacks Pendolo's fine beaches.

Its entry on Poso includes:

Poso is the main town, port and terminal for road transport on the northern coast of central Sulawesi. For most travellers, it's a transit point and somewhere to change money. Many folk head for the beaches ... or to to Ampana (for the boat to the Togean islands), but Poso is a pleasent place to break up a journey.

The Australian also has a report, on page 11, by Don Greenlees:

Foreign fighters wage holy war in Sulawesi

Afghan, Pakistani and Arab jihad fighters have been identified among the ranks of Muslim militants waging a struggle with Christians in Indonesia's island of Sulawesi, according to a local polic source. ...

The Laskar Jihad sustained a fierce campaign in the Maluku islands that has left several thousand dead and generated, by official government estimates, 350,000 internal refugees. Under strong criticism over the slow and inadequate response of Indonesian security forces to the situation in Poso, chief Security and Political Affairs Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono left to inspect the trouble yesterday. ...

Hopefully the situation will improve.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 5 December 2001.

Links to other sites:

www.preventconflict.org on Sulawesi

Jakarta Post report of 5 December

The Age article by Lindsay Murdoch

Cathtelecom.com report

www.lonelyplanet.com