January 12, 2000
volume 11, no. 8
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


    AMBON, Indonesia ( - Military officers formerly stationed in East Timor and political leaders from Jakarta are exploiting disorder in the Malukus for personal gain, according to a Catholic priest in the region.

    Father Agustinus Ulahayanan said these groups are responsible for fomenting conflict between Christians and Muslims which broke out a year ago in this far eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago and has left nearly 2,000 people dead. Father Ulahayanan, head of the Crisis Centre in Ambon diocese, said he seeks with every means to mediate between the Protestant and Muslim communities involved in the conflicts.

    Father Ulahayanan said Catholics have also suffered in the Malukus with more than 140 killed, and at least 18 Catholic churches damaged or burned. The violence has also produced thousands of refugees. In Buru, five nuns are missing and have not been heard from for days. They are thought to have fled to the hills after many Christians were massacred by Muslims.

    The priest said, "There seems to be an intentional effort to expel Christians from the islands, particularly in the north, east, and west." Nevertheless, he said, the fighting cannot be described as "a horizontal conflict between Christians and Muslims." He implicated high-ranking army officers in the fighting, including Col. Irwan Kusnadi, former Indonesian army commander in East Timor, "where he betrayed commitments made with local leaders." He said tension in the Malukus is also being exploited by some political leaders to attack adversaries.

    A solution for the crisis, according to Father Ulahayanan, must be found locally first of all, with the intervention of "the police force, instead of the army", equally composed of Christians and Muslims, impartial and supporting neither side. At the international level, the Ambon priest called for a UN Human Rights Mission or at least a UN Observer, to gather facts and information independent of the state media. "The Islamic daily Republika and SCTV television station, in the capital of Jakarta always report as if only Christians slaughter Muslims, while we see both parties slaughtering each other," he said.

    The priest's latest undertaking is a local mixed commission, Protestants and Muslims, committed to protecting human rights. But lack of funds and difficulty in communications limit the group's activity and mobility.


January 12, 2000
volume 10, no. 8

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