DAILY CATHOLIC TUESDAY November 24, 1998 vol. 9, no. 230
NEWS & VIEWS
CONCERN AT VATICAN OVER REPORTS FROM INDONESIA WHERE 58 HAVE BEEN KILLED IN MUSLIM ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- "The Holy See is very concerned by the reports-- however fragmentary-- that have been received from Jakarta."
With those words, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls underlined the worries being expressed at the Vatican after the outbreak of violence against Catholics in Indonesia this weekend.
Rioting on Sunday resulted in several deaths in Jakarta. Navarro- Valls pointed out that the fighting appeared to be based on religious divisions, and threatened "the traditional principles of tolerance in force in Indonesia, according to the country's constitution."
A rising tide of unrest in Indonesia prompted Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta to raise his voice last week in an appeal for calm and peace. "Are we incapable of resolving differences among ourselves without resorting to violence?" the prelate asked on November 14, after clashes between police and students outside a Catholic university had resulted in 14 deaths. "We must find a solution to our problems, rather than make things worse."
Aid agencies in Jakarta reported on Monday that 14 people were killed in riots by Muslim extremists against Christians and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia over the weekend.
Mobs of Muslim youth set fire to churches, schools, and shops in north Jakarta on Saturday and Sunday. President B.J. Habibie, at the center of student protests over his plans to change Indonesia's political system, blamed unidentified agitators for the violence and urged restraint. "I call on the people not to be easily provoked to take actions to serve the purpose of a certain group that wants to disintegrate the nation," Habibie said.
Many of the dead were killed when the mobs burned down buildings in which they had taken refuge. Eleven Catholic churches, mainly in Jakarta's Chinatown, were ransacked or burned. The rioters broke stained glass windows, smashed pews and statues, threw Bibles on a bonfire, and wrecked the altar.
Meanwhile, the former governor of East Timor -- who is now a political advisor to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie -- said on Sunday that 44 people had been killed by military forces in the region.
Mario Carrascalao told Portugese media that he had confirmed the death toll through his own sources. The International Red Cross said that 150 people fled their homes and took refuge in a church when soldiers moved into the Alas area after rebels attacked a military command post earlier this month.
Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world,
invaded mainly Catholic East Timor in 1975 and annexed it
the following year in a move not recognized by the United
Nations. Portugal, the former colonial ruler, suspended
talks with Jakarta on Friday after the first reports of the
massacre of civilians reached Lisbon. The worst previous
incident took place in the capital Dili in 1991 when 200
people were killed by soldiers during protests.
Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
NEWS & VIEWS