/// THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF BACKGROUNDERS ON THE
VIOLENCE IN SULAWESI AND THE SURROUNDING AREAS. THREE
MORE SPOTS BY PATRICIA NUNAN WILL FOLLOW IN THE NEXT
INTRO: Violence is plaguing yet another of Indonesia's
outlying provinces -- this time on the island of
Sulawesi. Roughly 500 Muslims are feared to have died
in a series of clashes in May between local Muslims
and Christians. But despite appearances, the clashes
near the city of Poso in central Sulawesi are not
based on religious differences. Patricia Nunan brings
us a closer look at one of the more under reported
conflicts in Indonesia.
// ACT WOMAN SINGING LULLABYE, FADE UNDER //
A woman sings her child to sleep in the classroom of a
school in the predominantly Christian town of Tentena.
She is one of tens of thousands of refugees who have
fled their homes near the city of Poso in the wake of
a massacre of Muslims.
In late May, mobs of Christians calling themselves the
"Reds" reportedly went on an initial rampage against
the Poso district's Muslim population. Survivors says
at least 38 people were shot or hacked to death when
they were found seeking shelter in a mosque. There
were also reports that the Poso River was clogged with
bodies in the aftermath.
Officials put the number of dead at one-hundred-65.
Muslim leaders estimate that the number is closer to
Thousands of Muslim refugees fled the violence or were
left homeless when more than four-thousand homes were
destroyed in the clashes. Thousands of Christians also
left fearing revenge attacks by Muslims.
But despite initial appearances, police and community
leaders from both faiths say it is far too simple to
label the violence in Sulawesi a Muslim-Christian
/// ACT - ROOSTERS CROWING ///
The island of Sulawesi, lying roughly 13 hundred
kilometers east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is
full of lush and largely under-populated tracts of
land. That makes it a popular destination for settlers
-- both migrants who decided to move to Sulawesi of
their own accord, and transmigrants -- groups of
Indonesians recruited by the government to leave
densely populated areas with less economic opportunity
to start life a new elsewhere. At least 12 million
people have settled in new areas across Indonesia in
the past 25 years.
And that's part of the problem.
Police Intelligence Commander stationed in Sulawesi,
Ronall Firera, explains.
/// RONALL FIRERA IN INDONESIAN W/ VOICE OVER ///
So some of the new-arrivals are transmigrants, and
some just came due to the location and fertile lands.
They're all just willing to work hard. In just five
years, their work has shown results. A small number of
the local people just watch -- and they sell their
land to the new arrivals to earn money for that moment
-- without thinking about the future. And they use it
for partying, dancing, and drinking.
/// END ACT ///
Long before the clashes of May, officials say that
resentment had been firmly rooted along ethnic lines -
- between people native to central Sulawesi, and
newcomers from the islands of Java, Bali or Madura.
The problem was exacerbated when the Indonesian
economy collapsed three years ago.
That's where the roots of the current violence in
Sualwesi begin. But since then, the events that led to
the clashes are sketchy. Both Muslim and Christian
leaders blame the local political elite for using
religious differences to further divide the community
and enhance their own power. They say unnamed leaders
in Poso's government paid thugs to incite gang
fights during campaigns for local government
positions. The competition was allegedly portrayed as
a choice between Muslims or Christians. Riots soon
followed. And in April, a group of Muslims burnt down
some 300 Christian homes -- leading to the bloody
revenge attack by the Christians in May.
Both Muslim and Christian community leaders understand
and can trace the confluence of political, economic
and social factors that led to the violence in Poso.
But it is the religious differences that have been
exploited and emphasized.
Muslim leader Imam Muhajid, of the Al Mahrijin mosque
in the village of Margolembo.
/// IMAM MUHAJID IN INDONESIAN W/ VOICE OVER ///
In Islamic as well as Christian teaching, there are no
such commands to commit violence. But in reality these
days, the destroyed houses are owned by the Muslims --
the new-comers. And the ones who destroyed them are
the Christians. So if you ask if it's a religious war
-- I myself wouldn't put it that way. But what's
clear, is that in terms of damages -- either torched
houses or people killed -- the ones affected are
/// END ACT ///
Pastor Jonah Lumenta is with the Central Sulawesi
Christian Church in Tentena.
/// JONAH LUMENTA IN INDONESIA W/ VOICE OVER ///
The bible teaches that evil shouldn't be avenged by
evil. Evil should be avenged by kindness. But in terms
of defending Christians' right to life, violence was
forced to happen.
/// END ACT ///
The situation in Central Sulawesi remains fluid and
tense. Most refugees say they want to go home if the
situation were safe, and in many cases, if their homes
were still there to go to. What Sulawesi's Muslims and
Christians have most in common it now seems are the
tragic events that made them flee and the pervasive
fear of worse things to come. (signed)
31-Jul-2000 07:47 AM EDT (31-Jul-2000 1147 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list