World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Update
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: Media

4 March 1999


cf. WCC Press Release of 27 January 1999
cf. WCC Press Release of 9 February 1999

On 1 March 1999 the World Council of Churches' General Secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, sent the following letter to President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie of Indonesia:

"Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches has closely followed the developments in Indonesia since the May 1998 riots. The Council and its member churches have watched with growing concern the unfolding ethnic violence and communal conflicts that have left thousands of families in pain and despair. These events are all the more appalling because they are against the very spirit and proud traditions of the Indonesian people for religious pluralism.

Concerned by these developments, the VIIIth WCC Assembly, held in Harare last December, decided to send an ecumenical delegation on a pastoral visit to Indonesia from the 26th of January to 4th of February. I take this opportunity to thank you and your other senior cabinet colleagues for taking the time to meet with the delegation on the 2nd of February. The meeting not only provided the delegation with the opportunity to express the concern of the churches around the world on the situation in Indonesia, but it also helped the delegation to understand and appreciate the difficulties encountered by your government as it endeavors to defuse the present climate of violence and conflict that has affected large parts of Indonesia. At the meeting Your Excellency deplored these acts of violence and condemned those responsible for the attacks on churches and mosques, as well as the fostering of religious hostilities. The delegation was assured that the government was doing everything in its power to bring the perpetrators responsible for these reprehensible acts to justice. The delegation returned hopeful with the assurance given by you.

It is now a month since that visit, yet the violence and communal conflicts continue unabated. New areas have been engulfed in a frenzy of fresh communal violence. Those responsible for the killings and arson have yet to be brought to justice.

We are distressed by these developments, more particularly with the situation in Ambon where the trouble began in mid-January last and continued while the delegation was in Indonesia. At that time the General Secretary of the Indonesian Council of Churches together with the leaders of other religious communities accompanied government officials to Ambon to help authorities in their efforts to restore peace and harmony in the region. This is a region where Muslims and Christians have long lived side by side in peace.

We have now received reports from our member churches that Ambon remains in the grip of communal frenzy, never witnessed before. There are daily reports of casualties and of attacks against Christian homes and places of worship, particularly in Batu Merah Dalam in the northern part of the city. It is a matter of deep concern for us that the special army units whose duty it is to protect the lives and properties of all Indonesians are accused of a partisan approach. This has spread insecurity and unrest amongst the members of the Christian community.

We urge Your Excellency to ensure that military personnel act as custodians of law and order and carry out their duties in accordance with the guiding principles of "Pancasila'. Also that immediate steps are taken to apprehend those responsible for violence, arson and killings and that they are brought before the courts of law to stand trial. Failure to do so will encourage the perpetrators to continue to indulge in these heinous crimes with impunity, thus further damaging Indonesia's image in the comity of nations.

We trust that, in accordance with the assurances given to the Ecumenical Delegation, Your Excellency will give this matter urgent and serious consideration."

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6152 (office);
e-mail: Media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.