Religious intolerance in Indonesia
1999 until now.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago comprised of some 13,700 islands spread over
1,475,000 square kilometers. It is also the fifth most populated country on
earth, with 220 million people, and the third largest democracy in the world --
trailing only India and the U.S. 1
Indonesia has about 210 million people of whom about 90% are Muslim.
In fact it has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world.
There are many Christian enclaves in the country. Indonesia had been noted for its relatively high level of religious tolerance,
until recent years when many conflicts between Muslims and Christians have
occurred. Violence was particularly intense in the Maluku islands (a.k.a. Moluccas
or Spice islands) a chain of 17 islands about 250 miles west of New Guinea.
At the end of the 20th century. Indonesians suffered massive violence at the hands of fellow Indonesians. These were generally motivated by religious hatred -- largely between Muslims and Christians.
Unfortunately, once started, such attacks tend to be self-sustaining as former victims retaliate against former attackers with the latter becoming the new victims who plot new retaliation.
1998: Conflict in the Poso district:
The Poso district is in central Sulawesi, about 1,000 miles northeast of
Jakarta. Christians originally settled the district. Muslim immigrants have
since arrived. Christians still retain a slight majority in that area.
A dispute started between Muslims and Christians over the control of the
local government in late 1998. It rapidly escalated into widespread clashes
between the two religious groups. Hundreds died.
According to Foreign Affairs magazine, in 2000-MAY, 70 Muslims who had
surrendered at a school were murdered in cold blood by Christians wielding
homemade guns and machetes. Christians later hunted down other Muslims, slashed
their throats, and tossed their bodies into rivers. Others were strung up on
homemade wire nooses.
In early 2001, the Laskar Jihad, a terrorist radical extremist Muslim
group, established a training camp near Jakarta. They claim to be a militia
whose purposes are to defend Muslims, engage in social work, and teach religion.
However, the Indonesian government has stated that the:
"Laskar Jihad is trying to
seize territory from Christians. Lt. Gen. Abdullah Hendropriyono, head of
the national intelligence service, was quoted...as saying that Laskar Jihad
fighters were receiving aid from the al Qaeda network" 2
The latter is the group that organized the terrorist attack on New York City and
Washington. There are allegations that Jihad has had "informal links"
with Indonesian military officers.
In 2001-OCT, Laskar Jihad "holy warriors" arrived in Poso. Between
NOV-27 and 29, they had seized five villages and killed five Christians. More
than 8,000 Christians were displaced from their homes.
1999 to 2000: Other instances of violence -- :
According to Newsroom:|
Church lawyers representing Catholics and Protestants in Ambon have asked the
United Nations and the United States to intervene to stop escalating violence in
the Indonesian province. Christian commercial districts and residential areas
have been targeted in recent months, and up to 700 Christians killed. As
repatriation of refugees from East Timor proceeds, religious extremism is being
blamed for more bloodshed in Ambon. The province is one of several that may seek
independence in a trend that some nationalists feared would lead to the breakup of
According to Newsroom:|
More than 30 people were killed in further rioting in the
troubled Indonesian province of Ambon. According to witnesses,
many died at the hands of Indonesian troops who were taking an active role
in the rioting...
About 20 of the dead were Christians and 10 were Muslims,
according to a report from a British human rights group Jubilee Campaign. An Indonesian military spokesman insisted that
armed forces intervened only to pacify the area, identifying the
dead as 20 Muslims and 12 Christians. Witness accounts, however,
including a local reporter quoted in the Italian newspaper
Avvenire, say many of the dead were deliberately gunned down by
army soldiers as fresh violence erupted between Christian and
Muslim communities. More than 70 people were being treated
for their injuries in hospitals....
Some observers claim the riots were started deliberately
by militants intent on Islamizing the province. They include
factions in the armed forces. In a statement, Jubilee Campaign
"... the process of Islamization is already well under
way, with Christians forced by Muslim rioters to flee the Banda
islands in southern Moluccas."
The Moluccas islands
are also known as the Malukus and Spice islands.
|1999-DEC-3 Indonesia army & Muslims vs. Christians: According
to the Maranatha Christian Journal for DEC-5:
"The Rev. John Barr, secretary of Indonesia and East
Timor for the Uniting Church of Australia, reported that
although Indonesia is no longer prominent in the headlines
of the American media, Christians in Indonesia and East
Timor still face violence and widespread desolation."
||Brutal fighting between Muslims and Christians in the
island of Ambon. Major violence
over the Christmas period was anticipated.|
|30 people killed and 2,000 Christians driven out of
Halmahera Island. Their churches and homes were destroyed.|
|Maltreatment and fear in Indonesian concentration
Rev. Barr warned:
"Be aware that the vast majority of people in Indonesia
do not support the terror and violence that has been going
on. We should be careful with any criticism not to label or
blame ordinary Indonesians. Many Indonesians have actually
fought with courage and integrity to bring about change in
their country. They have also stood in solidarity with the
people of East Timor."
||2000-JAN-11: Malukus Islands: According to ReligionToday:
"Harming innocent Christians is a sin, Indonesian Muslim leaders said,
rejecting demands for a holy war. Thousands of Muslim protesters are demanding
jihad [struggle] against Christians in response for Muslim deaths in the
Moluccas (a.k.a. Maluku) islands. Some 1,500 Christians and Muslims have been killed in the past
two weeks, news reports said. ...'I reject jihad if it means to collect
thousands of people to gather around and cry out expressions of hate to take
revenge,' Muslim cleric Umar Shihab said. He is co-chairman of the Indonesian
Ulemas Council, Islam's top official body in the country. War that is conducted
in revenge is a sin, Shihab said. President Abdurrahman Wahid, also a Muslim
scholar, also rejected the calls for jihad....A jihad against those who provoke
violence against Muslims is allowable, and people who are fomenting the violence
should be restrained, Shihab said."
|2000-JAN-12: Malukus Islands: According to ReligionToday:|
"Hundreds of Muslims have died, some in mosques, in religious violence in the
Moluccas (a.k.a. Malukus) islands. Scores of charred corpses reportedly were recovered from
burned-out mosques on the chain of islands 1,550 miles northeast of Jakarta,
Indonesia, CNN said. 'It's very difficult to count the bodies,' which were
'torched and burned by unidentified people,' said Mursal Amal Tomagola of
Medical Emergency, an aid group. Authorities believe nearly 1,000 people have
died in the past two weeks after a Christian bus driver accidentally killed a
Muslim boy. At least 1,500 have died in similar outbursts of violence since last
January, CNN said. The Moluccas are traditionally Christian..."
|2000-MAR-1: East Timor:
According to DayWatch:|
"In a historic gesture, the president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid has
apologized for violence carried out by Indonesian troops during the 24-year
occupation of East Timor, specifically referring to the victims of the Santa
Cruz cemetery massacre in 1991, when Indonesian troops opened fire on civilians
on a funeral march."
|2000-APR-7: Maluku Islands:
According to Newsroom: and ReligionToday:|
Sectarian tensions in Indonesia's Maluku Islands are escalating according to
church leaders who report the details of recent atrocities by radical Muslim
groups and Indonesian military troops. About 3,000 people, most of them
Christians, have died in the past 14 months as a result of religious violence, news reports
say. The islands were once mostly Christian, but the Muslim population has
increased in recent years with a "radical minority" causing unrest, news
reports said. Christian clergy in North Maluku province and the island of Buru claim that
'jihad troops' determined to expunge Christians from the areas have
slaughtered many believers and burned down churches and homes."
|2000-MAY-16: Ambon: According to Maranatha Christian Journal:|
Violence erupted in the Moluccas Islands on MAY-16. During the following six
days, 40 were killed and over 100 injured. There are allegations that 10,000
Muslims received military training elsewhere in Indonesia in preparation for the attack,
and that the government closed down the military training camp in April. Most
Muslim leaders in Indonesia have condemned the violence. Apparently most of the
casualties were caused by the government security forces attempting to disperse
|2000-DEC-4: Maluku province: According to Newsroom: |
In Indonesia's eastern Maluku province, attacks on Christian villages by Muslim
warriors have left more than 50 people dead.
"The most deadly attack came on
the same day that provincial leaders were planning ways to stop bloodshed during
the upcoming religious holiday season, when sectarian attacks often are sparked."
|2001-MAR-1: Kalimantan provinces According to the Associated Press:|
The Dyaks make up about 40% of the population in the Kalimantan provinces of
Indonesia. They are a Christian group, although many still hold some Animist
beliefs. They feel that they are discriminated against in education and jobs in
this predominately Muslim country. About 8% of the population are Madurese. They
are a strict Muslim group who began to be relocated to the province in the 1960,
in order to relieve population pressures elsewhere in Indonesia. Many of the
Muslims are troubled by the customs of the Dyaks including the keeping of dogs
as pets and the eating of pork. Both practices are forbidden in Islam.
During the latter third of 2001-FEB, inter-religious rioting
resulted in the deaths of at least 428 people. Aid workers estimate that up to
1,000 may have been killed. For many days, about 2,000 Madurese hid in the
jungle; most were without food or water. Roving gangs of Dyaks slaughtered many
of them on sight. The government was able to negotiate with the Dyaks to allow
the Madurese to be evacuated to safety. Having received a government guarantee
of protection, many Madurese came out of the jungle. But the Dyak Christians broke their
promise and trucked 118 Madurese to a local soccer field. Six Muslims were
beheaded. Others, including the elderly, women and babies, had their limbs
chopped off and stomachs slashed open. None survived.
2001-OCT-1: Klaksanaan village: According to Crosswalk/Religion Today:|
Churches and homes were attacked on 2001-SEP-17 in Klaksanaan village. Two
church buildings and 23 Christian houses were burned. Fifty-eight Christian
families were made homeless.
"No one was killed or seriously injured in the attack,
according to The Voice of the Martyrs (Canada). But Muslim militants in
Indonesia have killed 10,000 Christians in just the past two years, according to
reports by The Persecution & Prayer Alert service of VOM."
The report did
not include an estimate of the number of Muslims killed by Christians over the
same time period.
|2002-APR-28: Soya village; Ambon, Maluku province: According to the Associated Press:
assailants armed with guns, grenades and daggers stormed a village in
Indonesia's religiously divided Maluku province Sunday, killing 14
Christians in a brutal pre-dawn attack that threatened a fragile peace
pact. Shouting 'kill them all,' a dozen men entered the mostly Christian
village of Soya on the outskirts of Ambon, the provincial capital and the
focus of three years of sectarian violence that killed 9,000 people,
witnesses said." 3
|2002-OCT-12: Bali: Three massive bomb blasts,
apparently planted by terrorists, killed over 180 people; over 200 are
missing. Most were vacationers from Australia. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We are dealing with these
extremist groups whose activities know no frontiers, and whose evil knows
no limits." French President Jacques Chirac, said during a speech: "The
mass crime which was just committed in Indonesia confronts humanity once
more with the unspeakable."|
2002-OCT-16: Maluku province:
A peace pact has been signed between Christians
and Muslims. Jafar Umar Thalib, leader of the Laskar Jihad group,
has decided to disband his group and to pull all 3,000 of his Muslim
fighters out of the Malaku province. 4
Relative peace was eventually restored to the region.
- "Muslim-Christian violence rampant in 'new' Indonesia," Contender
- Ian Timberlake, "Indonesia group tied to al Qaeda kills
Christians," Washington Times, 2001-DEC-13. See:
- Michael Casey, "Fourteen Christians killed in Indonesia,"
2002-APR-28, Associated Press, at:
- Telly Nathalia and Karima Anjani, "Militant
Islamic group disbands in Indonesia," Reuters, 2002-OCT-16, at:
Copyright © 2001 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2013-DEC-08
Author: B.A. Robinson