They Cry in Silence Sep/Oct 2001
Indonesia is a nation splashed across thousands of miles of the Indian Ocean and Java Sea in Southeast Asia. The nation is comprised of a mind-boggling 13,660 islands and ranks as the world’s fourth largest nation in population. A statistic that may surprise you is that Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world. Of the total population of some 200 million, 173 million are Muslims.
The Indonesian government requires its citizens to carry cards identifying their religious status. Over the past several years, its claims to respect religious freedom have become a mockery characterized by the blatant, barbaric, and deadly persecution of Christians. Although Indonesian citizens officially are allowed to opt for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism, Muslims consistently receive preferential treatment, thus reducing Christian influence in public life.
Marginalized Christian influence, however, is the least of what believers there endure. Rampaging mobs of radical Muslims have launched a jihad (holy war) of staggering proportions and are guilty of horrendous atrocities.
The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), an organization dedicated to helping the persecuted church, has released detailed accounts of militant Muslim violence against Christians. Since 1995, VOM reports, 500 churches have been burned and destroyed.
On May 30, 2000, the Lasker Jihad (Holy War Army) slaughtered some 50 Christian villagers on the island of Halmahera in a predawn raid. Fourteen boats carrying militant Muslims landed on Buru Island where they destroyed 105 houses, three churches, and two schools. Ninety percent of the island was placed under Islamic domination.
An extremist radio station broadcast encouraged its listeners to kill all Muslims participating in reconciliation efforts or doing business with Christians. “If a Muslim,” the broadcast declared, “is caught doing business with a Christian, kill him, for it is better to slay one Muslim than that the whole Muslim community be wiped out.”1 According to VOM, militants already have victimized a number of moderate Muslims, accusing them of favoring reconciliation.
International Christian Concern has reported that, on Kasiui Island, teachers David Balubun and E. Rumatera were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam. Yet forced conversions to Islam are common. When Lasker Jihad attacked four Christian villages on Kasiui, approximately 500 people fled to a nearby island. At least 760 people were not so fortunate, however. A survivor of the attack reported that most of the Christians were forced to convert to Islam, while as many as 100 died for refusing to recant their faith in Christ.
But these numbers are low compared to the number of Christians being persecuted in the Moluccas. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has commented,
Conflict in the Moluccas is set to enter a third year with no end to the violence in sight. Disturbing new reports suggest Christian communities are facing forcible conversion and circumcision, adding a new dimension to a conflict that has already caused untold suffering. By conservative estimates at least 5000 have been killed and a further 500,000 displaced.
Whilst the majority of Moluccans wish to see the conflict resolved, Islamic extremists and elements in the government and armed forces are widely believed to be behind the continuing violence.
In a disturbing new development, hundreds of Christian families are being forced to convert to Islam or face death. Entire Christian villages are currently held captive by militants. . . . Christian villagers receive an ultimatum to convert to Islam or face being killed. . . . Men are often separated from their families and kept under guard, whilst women and children are taken in by local Muslims. On a number of occasions, they have been taken to the local mosque, given ‘religious training’, and forced to adopt a Muslim name.
Muslim militants have also targeted survivors of previous attacks who were hiding in the jungle.2
These few illustrations document the fact that what is happening to believers in Indonesia is part of a calculated campaign to wipe out the Christian community. Starving Christian children are forced to witness their religious leaders being beheaded or hacked to death in the streets. Christian women and girls are being sexually mutilated and forced to convert to Islam or die. Hundreds of houses of worship and homes are gutted by fire. Entire villages are swept clean of Christian families. These victims are more than statistics. They are our families in Christ Jesus.
What can we do? First, we can become informed. The Internet has many sites that expose the truth about the persecuted church worldwide. Three excellent ones are The Voice of the Martyrs, at www.persecution.com; Christian Solidarity Worldwide, at www.csw.org.uk; and International Christian Concern, www.persecution.org.
Next, we can pray, petitioning the Lord for the welfare of believers in specific areas. Third, as constituents, we can contact our political representatives and tell them we care about such persecution and we expect them to try to do something about it.
The larger question is, Do we care enough to make the effort?
Editor’s Note: In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 422 to 2 condemning the Sudanese government for slaughtering Christians in the south. The bill makes $10 million in assistance available for relief and bars companies that do business in Sudan from raising capital in the United States.