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11 December 2001

WCC alerts UNHCHR to increasing sectarian violence in Indonesia

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-01-09, of 16 March 2001
cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-09, of 2 April 2001

In a letter sent today to Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser raised concerns about increasing sectarian violence in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Reporting on the destruction of homes and churches and displacement of people, the WCC urges Mrs Robinson to call upon the government of Indonesia "to pay serious attention to the sectarian violence taking place in Sulawesi before it degenerates into another situation such as that of the Mulukas".

The text of the letter follows:

The World Council of Churches has received with concern reports from its member churches in Indonesia as well as from other parts of the world about the increase in the level of sectarian violence in Central Sulawesi and Indonesia. This has resulted in grave and serious human rights violations. The violence is likely to further increase if immediate steps are not taken to bring the situation under control.

In Poso during the last week of November 2001, 600 houses and 6 churches were burned; 1500 Christians were forced to flee the city in search of security. Since the beginning of December, another 21 Christian villages and 5 churches have been destroyed in Poso. The Christians living in the area have fled Poso and sought shelter in Tentena - the headquarters of the Christian Church in Central Sulawesi (GKST).

The attacks resulting in destruction of property and displacement of people were carried out by the forces of the Laskar Jihad that came largely from East Java. The groups were armed with rocket launchers and automatic weapons. They have presently surrounded Tentena, cutting off essential supplies to the region.

The church leaders in Sulawesi have repeatedly appealed to the central government in Jakarta to save them from these attacks that are being organized and carried out by the Laskar Jihad. To this date the government has not responded to their appeals, nor has it taken adequate measures to ensure their security and prevent further violations of human rights.

We therefore urge you to call upon the Indonesian government: to pay serious attention to the sectarian violence taking place in Sulawesi before it degenerates into another situation such as that of the Mulukas; to ensure the safety of the people of Sulawesi; to ensure that perpetrators responsible for the acts of violence are brought to justice; and further to take necessary steps to disarm private armed groups such as the Laskar Jihad.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.