Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Bali Analysis

Date: Tuesday 29 October 2002
Subj: Bali Analysis
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

In this posting, Rev. Dr. Mark Durie of Australia offers an analysis of the 12 October 02 terrorist bombings at Kuta Beach Bali. Dr. Mark Durie is the author of many articles and books on Acehnese language and culture. He is an Anglican pastor and was formerly head of the Department of Linguistics and Language Studies at the University of Melbourne. His insights on Bali and Indonesia come from years of extensive research and experience of Indonesian culture (primarily in Aceh) as well as a continued deep interest in Indonesian affairs.

- Elizabeth Kendal


BALI ANALYSIS by Rev. Dr. Mark Durie
Putting the Bali Bombings into the Wider Indonesian Context.

In all the discussion of the Bali tragedy this past week, many Australians have searched for a reason why so many innocent people have been killed. Surely such hatred must have some explanation? Could it be something we have done? Was it East Timor? The 'war on Iraq'? Our lifestyle? Our indifference to world poverty?


This bomb attack, and others like it, must be understood in terms of the strategic goals and world view of the Islamic terrorist organizations which carry them out. All these groups aim to establish the Islamic shari'a or 'Islamic way' as the law of the land. They oppose existing regimes in Muslim countries, which are rejected as un-Islamic. A second belief they share is that jihad is the best method for bringing this objective about. Countless books, tracts and training schools emphasize these two principles.


At the time of independence from the Dutch in 1945, calls for Indonesia to become an Islamic state were successfully resisted. The authors of Indonesia's constitution opted instead for pluralism, affirming a diversity of religions including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Bhuddism. The national motto is 'Unity in Diversity'.

However during the 1980's President Suharto, to prop up his ailing presidency, began to court Islamic radicals, who rapidly grew in influence. One of the effects of this political shift has been an escalation of attacks on Christian communities in Indonesia. The Barnabas Fund (UK) reported at the end of 2000 that half a million Christians have become internally displaced; more than 5,000 people have been killed; and as many as 7,000 have been forcibly converted to Islam. Local Muslim communities have also experienced great suffering in the violent confrontations.


Churches attacked or destroyed in Indonesia since Independence

Years Churches attacked
1945-1965 2
1966-1975 46
1976-1985 89
1986-1995 104
1996- present Over 500

Source: Indonesian Christian Communications Forum



There are renewed calls today for Indonesia to become a shari'a state. However an obstacle to imposition of the shari'a, apart from the many moderate Muslims, is the handful of provinces with significant Christian populations, or, in the case of Bali, a majority Hindu population.

In November 2000 the Laskar Jihad militia announced "We intend during this Ramadan to ... carry out various activities paving the way for full shari'a at least in places that have now become exclusively Islam, such as the islands of Ternate, Tidore and Bacan." This is a kind of code for religious cleansing of Christians from those regions. The town of Poso in Central Sulawesi used to have a population of 40,000, mostly Christian. By the end of 2002 it had been reduced to an exclusively Muslim population of 5,000, with all of its churches destroyed. Reports of the Laskar Jihad's operations in Ambon and Sulawesi describe a systematic progression through villages and towns, sometimes using equipment such as bulldozers, petrol tankers, rocket launchers and other military hardware. Villages are looted, burnt out and razed to the ground.

The Laskar Jihad is known to include fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's top political and security minister, has said of them "They also play a role in defending truth and justice that is expected by Muslims in Indonesia. For me, as far as what they are doing is legal and not violating the law, then this is OK."

The Laskar Jihad has proven links to the Al Qa'ida, which by its title is officially dedicated to world-wide jihad against "Jews and Crusaders" (Crusaders means "Christians" in terrorist-speak). An Al Qa'ida training centre near Poso was used by the Laskar Jihad as a staging base for many attacks against local Christians, constantly frustrating local attempts at reconciliation between Muslims and Christians during 2001. More recently the Laskar Jihad have proclaimed West Papua as their next theatre of operations. Thousands of militants have been gathering there to prepare the way for the next jihad campaing. Although the Laskar Jihad claim to have disbanded just hours before the Bali atrocity, their troops remain in Papua.

The shift from jihad against Indonesian citizens to attacks on foreigners heralds a new phase in the struggle. Yet the goal of this operation must still be measured in terms of the way it could forward the pro-shari'a cause. It has certainly greatly weakened Hindu Bali and, by dealing the tourist trade a deadly blow, it will serve to isolate Indonesia from Western scrutiny and influence. Forcing Megawati to take action against militants could hasten her political demise, and leave the way open for a more acceptable replacement. It also helps the shari'a cause that the operation was conducted in Bali, where Muslims would be much less likely to have been hit as collateral damage.


The label 'sectarian violence', used so irresponsibly by the media for all this terror, has served to conceal and minimize the overall impact of the radical jihad groups' activities within Indonesia. The world has allowed destabilization, terror and displacement to advance a very great way already.

As we mourn the lost, and express sympathy and sorrow for the suffering of survivors from the Bali attack, let us work and seek for peace in Indonesia, a return to religious harmony, and a stable future for this great nation.


Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Aceh: Shari'a - the Islamisation of Acehnese Culture

Date: Wednesday 23 October 2002
Subj: Aceh: Shari'a - the Islamisation of Acehnese Culture
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator

The oil- and gas-rich region of Aceh is located on the northern tip of Sumatra, Indonesia. Aceh has a population of 4.3 million and has historically been staunchly Islamic. On 1 January 2002, as part of a wide-ranging autonomy package that the Indonesian government hoped would appease separatists, Aceh was granted the right to adopt Islamic law.

On 3 January 2002 the Jakarta Post reported, "The Aceh or Nanggroe Aceh Darusallam administration has officially put the special autonomy law and syariah (Islamic law) into effect." The article went on to quote Teungku Sofyan Hamzah, an imam at the grand Baiturrahman Mosque. "Asked about feelings of anxiety by some non-Muslims in Aceh following the implementation of the Islamic law, he (Hamzah) said that the minority should not worry. 'The administration will use national law for them.'"

Well - an article appeared in the Jakarta Post on 28 September 2002, detailing how under shari'a law, caning or imprisonment would be the punishment for those who "propagated beliefs other than Islam to Muslims in the province."

I sent the article to Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, and asked him for a comment. The author of many articles and books on Acehnese language and culture, Dr. Mark Durie -- a Anglican pastor in Melbourne, Australia -- was formerly head of the Department of Linguistics and Language Studies at the University of Melbourne. His insights come from years of extensive research and experience of Acehnese culture.

- Elizabeth Kendal


28 September 2002
"Aceh to implement caning punishment"

In line with sharia law, the Aceh legislative council is proposing that caning be one of the punishments for people who tempt Muslims to desert religious teachings.

A special team set up by the council is drafting the bylaw in response to Law No. 44/1999 on Aceh's special status and Law No. 18/2002 on special autonomy for Aceh.

Chairman of the special team Azhari Basar said that caning would be imposed on those who propagated beliefs other than Islam to Muslims in the province. "Those who violate the ruling will face a maximum jail term of two years and a maximum fine of Rp 6 million or 10 strokes of the cane," he told Antara.

Azhari said that according to Article 17 of the draft, anyone who skips Friday prayers three times in a row without an acceptable reason would be fined a maximum of Rp 2 million, six months in jail or three strokes of the cane.

"Caning also applies to those who open their food stalls during Ramadhan (fasting month)," he said. Food stall owners who sell food, beverages or cigarettes publicly or secretly during the holy month will be fined a maximum of Rp 4 million, spend one year in jail or receive five strokes of the cane.

However, it is not clear who is in charge of carrying out the caning punishment: the police or the sharia police.




The number of Acehnese Christians is small, however, a full Bible translation is available. I do not know at all what the current situation of the Christian Chinese community is in Aceh. Christians in Aceh consist mainly of soldiers, Chinese, and Bataks in the central and southwestern regions. There is no notable "Christian" area in Aceh, unlike neighbouring North Sumatra.

Since the 1950s Aceh has been considered a "special region", with certain concessions to its Islamic character. Government offices of religious affairs certainly support and promote Islam.

Church burnings have been an intermittent occurrence for the past 30 years. (Aceh was a forerunner in the significant increase of attacks on churches that has taken place throughout Indonesia.) The most significant protestant church in Banda Aceh, the capital, was burned down in the early 90's. Subsequently, permission to rebuild was refused.

Local church communities can have great difficulty getting permission to have a place for worship, e.g. having to build over water, or use the back of a shop.

Christians employed as teachers in schools (posted by the state education system) can come under enormous pressures to convert to Islam. Prayer for these isolated Christians is urgently needed.

The potential for conflict is perhaps greatest in South Aceh, where Batak ethnic communities include both Christians and Muslims. Without a clear ethnic-religious alignment, conversion to Christianity does not bring loss of ethnic identity and this can make conversion easier. Consequently, greater pressure could be brought to bear on the Christian community. (This is just my hypothesising about why South Aceh has been a region of conflict.)

Persecution of Christians is sometimes hard to distinguish from persecution of Chinese. During the massacres of "communists" in the 1960's, many Chinese Christians were killed. In Aceh a religious test was sometimes applied: if the person could not recite the Arabic confession of faith in Islam they were put to death. I had this from a Muslim person who narrowly survived the massacres.


The implementation of shari'a punishments is a profound change in Aceh, which has not been governed by the shari'a for over 100 years.

Most Acehnese people do pray regularly, and attend the Friday prayers. However in cities, not everyone would have complied. The use of force to require attendance, on pain of caning, is a disturbing trend.

In Aceh traditional ways - referred to as "adat" - have in the past been a very important authority for regulating daily life. The role of adat is recognized in Indonesian law, and was central to the role of Acehnese rulers in pre-colonial Aceh. This adat or "custom", being linked to the secular authority of the sultan, was always a balance to the shari'a. The recent introduction of shari'a law in Aceh is part of a centuries-long process of Islamising Acehnese culture, ultimately replacing adat with shari'a.

One can anticipate that there will be various areas of tension or conflict between adat and shari'a. For most Acehnese people, the whole Acehnese way of life is regarded as "Islamic", so this tension will be confusing. It will slow the rate of shari'a implementation. Paradoxically, Christians could be more vulnerable in this context, because non-Acehnese adat has little authority in Aceh.


Monday, October 21, 2002


WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 192 - Tue 21 Oct 2002

By Elizabeth Kendal

Last week's RLP 191 (15 Oct) gave some background and details of the situation in Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire). In summary: the rebels (Muslim soldiers) and supporters of the Muslim RDR political party are demanding a change of government. President Gbagbo, who was democratically elected in a process fully supported by all parties, is a Christian actively promoting national reconciliation. The situation last week was that four weeks after the failed coup, some 150,000 people had fled rebel-held Bouake in central Ivory Coast. More than 300 had died and the violent conflict was tearing the nation apart along religious and ethnic lines.

On Thursday 17 October, something occurred that was unimaginable a week earlier. A ceasefire agreement, brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was signed. France has agreed to monitor the ceasefire along with a West African surveillance force. President Gbagbo accepted the ceasefire to minimise loss of life. We can praise God for this respite from offensive conflict.

Rebel leaders are reportedly having a hard time convincing their troops to observe the ceasefire and President Gbagbo has kept the army on high alert. Typically, the rebel Sergeant Zacharias Kone in Vavoua, near the cocoa capital of Daloa, has rejected the deal outright. Many rebel fighters would prefer to march on Abidjan, the capital in the south. They are well armed with weaponry stockpiled ready for this assault. We must pray for the ceasefire to hold.

It is extremely perilous for Christians trapped in rebel-held areas, because they support the government of President Gbagbo. An Ivorian Christian reports: "All these areas (majority Christian towns in rebel-held territory) are presently empty of their inhabitants, who have fled through the bush to avoid killings, rapes and all other form of violence from the rebels, and are trying to join the small villages, 40, 50 or even 100 kilometres south of Bouake, in order to save their life. Their houses, left empty behind, are daily 'visited' by the rebels and their belongings are taken by the rebels and their supporters." (Mainstream media reports confirm all this - EK.) "Families are scattered, many pregnant women gave life in the bush and had to abandon their new born babies to save their lives, some died without help."


* the ceasefire to hold, with the rebels surrendering their arms,
and for constructive dialogue to commence in peace. At this
stage, a sustained peace would require a miracle - we have a God
who does "awesome miracles" for his people. Ps 66:5

* Christians who have been displaced, separated from family,
bereaved and traumatised through the conflict, that they will
experience comfort, strength and healing from the Lord.

* Christians trapped in or trying to flee from rebel-held areas,
that God will be their guide and their shield, frustrating the
plans of the wicked.

* great wisdom for President Gbagbo and his government as they
negotiate for peace and national reconciliation; may they seek
God's will and obey it in faith.

"For by his great power, he (God) rules forever. He watches every
movement of the nations; let no rebel rise in defiance." Ps 66:7

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Cote d'Ivoire: Tearing Apart.

Date: Thursday 17 October 2002 
Subj: Cote d'Ivoire: Tearing Apart. 
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference 
By Elizabeth Kendal

The media coverage of the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast, West Africa) has generally failed to get beneath the surface events and present the bigger picture in all its complexity. It has generally failed understand the religious element of the conflict and thus failed to report accurately the Ivorian struggle for survival as a people and as a democracy. 

Whilst this conflict is primarily political, it is unavoidably splitting the nation along ethnic and religious lines. The future of Cote d'Ivoire and West Africa are seriously at risk. As such, the future of mission in West Africa and the growing Church in Cote d' Ivoire are also seriously threatened. 


The media is using the toxic term "xenophobic" to describe Cote d'Ivoire, a nation that has for decades had a deliberate policy of openness and hospitality towards immigrants. 

The recent and present tensions arise from the fact that, in recent years, the rate of immigration has reached critical proportions giving rise to today's situation where Cote d'Ivoire now has a population that is around 40 percent immigrant. This is causing considerable stress to the nation. Land pressure and economic recession have led to tensions and clashes between Ivorians and immigrants, but this has nothing to do with "xenophobia". 

The rapid swell in the immigrant population has also created religious tension. Cote d'Ivoire sits atop the African ethnic / religious fault-line. The northern population is predominantly Muslim and the southern population is predominantly and traditionally Christian and animist. 

Twenty-seven percent of Ivorians are Muslim, yet when the immigrant population is added in, Islam becomes the majority religion in Cote d'Ivoire as the immigrants have come from the surrounding strongly Islamic nations of Burkina Faso (more than 4 million immigrants), Mali (2 to 3 million), Guinea and Senegal (1 million), Niger, Mauritania and Nigeria (amongst a total population of 15.8 million). (These are approximate and unofficial figures.) 

The situation is most marked in central Cote d'Ivoire. For example, the Baule people, who have lived in the region for centuries and are traditionally animist and Christian, now find themselves to be a minority in their homeland, a region that is today reportedly 68 percent Muslim - primarily immigrants.


As is well known to observers of religious liberty and Islam, Muslim majorities generally refuse to be governed by non-Muslims. This fact has put the predominantly Christian government of Cote d'Ivoire in a critical position. The government's position was aggravated by the fact that President Bedie (the president of the National Assembly, who came to power in December 1993 after the death of Houphouet-Boigny - president since independence) had become very unpopular with the northern and immigrant Muslim population. 

To protect its integrity, the National Assembly passed a controversial electoral code stipulating that presidential candidates be Ivorian born of Ivorian parents (i.e. not recent immigrants). 

While this did not exclude Muslims from the presidency, it did however disqualify the Muslim strong-man and favourite, former Prime Minister, Dr. Alassane Ouattara, from contesting the elections, as Ouattara's parents are citizens of Burkina Faso. Regardless of this, the opposition group, "Rassemblement des Republicains" (RDR) named Ouattara as their candidate, setting the stage for a confrontation. 

In 1999 a referendum was held regarding the constitutional amendments and election code. The election code was approved by 87.6 percent of voters. Ouattara was therefore banned from contesting the 2000 elections. This resulted in bloody riots and accusations of discrimination and xenophobia. Then in December 1999, General Guei toppled the unpopular Bedie and took power in a bloodless coup. 

In October 2000, Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian, was elected President after a popular uprising. In January 2001 there was a failed military coup and in November 2001, President Gbagbo, in his desire to unite the people, initiated a two-month-long National Forum on Reconciliation. 


It had long been suspected that General Guei, who was killed in Abidjan by loyalist forces on 19 September 2002, the first day of the uprising, would attempt another coup. 

The rebel soldiers are northern Muslims who are demanding a change of government. They have the support of the northern Muslim population (which is predominantly immigrant). Ouattara has been accused of fanning fear amongst immigrants for political gain. Christians generally are loyal to the government of President Gbagbo. Thus the conflict, while essentially political, is unavoidably splitting the country along ethnic and religious lines. 

The situation is complicated by the fact that the former colonial power, France, also has interests in a change of government in Cote d'Ivoire. When he was Prime Minister under President Houphouet-Boigny, Alassane Ouattara permitted Cote d'Ivoire's public services to be freely placed in French hands. France has since run a monopoly on Cote d'Ivoire's water, telecommunications and electricity. France is aware however, that President Gbagbo, an ardent nationalist, will not permit that monopoly to be renewed in 2004. 

Hence France would also like to see a co-operative Ouattara in power. One Ivorian Christian has described the conflict as, "an Islamic plot, maintained by France and the world press. It is for France to control Ivory Coast market which is so rich and for Muslims to have control of the country."


Some Ivorians responded to the initial uprising by attacking immigrants who they suspected were supporting the rebels. President Gbagbo responded with an urgent plea for calm. "I want to tell Ivorians that the foreigners are not our problem right now. Our fight is a fight to free our country and not to attack foreigners," Mr Gbagbo said. "Do not attack foreigners." (BBC 9 Oct) 

Likewise Army spokesman Jules Yao Yao called on citizens to stay out of the conflict, to not take the law into their own hands, so as not to turn it into an ethnic or religious conflict (Reuters 16 Oct). 

The flashpoint at present is central Cote d'Ivoire. Reports from Ivorian evangelicals put real flesh on the media reports of killings and terror. 

Associated Press 10 October 2002 - "BOUAKE, Ivory Coast -- The killers were young and armed, bearing guns, machetes and clubs. They roamed the streets of Ivory Coast's second city, chasing victims. Some, they burned alive. 

"Frightened residents of Bouake - fleeing by the thousands during a lull in fighting that has raged for days - spoke Thursday of how the three-week-old rebellion let loose deadly ethnic rivalries in the this rebel-held, central city of 500,000. 

"After a government offensive failed to dislodge the insurgents this week, young ethnic Dioulas armed by the rebels hunted down fleeing members of the government-supported Baule tribe, residents said. 

"They chased them through the streets, stealing their belongings and burning their homes. On Wednesday, Dioula youths raided a Baule neighbourhood and burned residents there alive." 


One Ivorian Christian writes, 12 October 2002, "Today I speak to you from one of the cities occupied by the rebels (Bouak√©) about Dioulas (population of the North and immigrants of Sahelian origin). All Moslems attack and kill the other populations, generally Christian, under the supervision of the rebels. 

"In these zones occupied by the rebels, only districts lived in by the Christians and the animists are traumatized and held. Those populations can make nothing. They starve and thirst. While districts lived massively by the Moslems are provided for by the rebels; shops are opened, the population eats, drinks and dances with the rebels. Here is what the world press never reveals. We count on you to make this known to the international community. Please, get in touch with NGO for us." 

Another Ivorian Christian writes, 14 October 2002, "The rebels in Bouake have been given strong and popular support from a large part of the migrant populations. Knowing the place and the people, those populations have shown to the rebels every house belonging to opponents of the RDR, members of the Army, Customs and Police etc. Entire families have been slaughtered, and many people burnt alive from the beginning of the rebellion. 

"Since the Army's assault (to liberate Bouake) failed (7 Oct), the crimes have increased in number and in horror. Rebels and the RDR supporters are conducting systematic killing of non-Muslims, Christians and supporters of other political parties; all these people had been localized prior for this purpose, long before the rebels came in. 

"Far beyond all imagination, rebels are also trying to start to a civil and ethnic war trying to convince every tribe or ethnic or religious group that the others are preparing to kill them in mass; this is done not only in Bouake, but everywhere in the country. 

"It is clear as ever that the people who initiated this rebellion are now willing to turn it into a civil ethnic and religious war. It is their clear intention to justify an international intervention in the country and from then, to obtain a new political process and the election of their mentor. 

"I believe that the fall of the present government, if it occurs, will lead not only this country, but the entire region of West Africa into endless civil and religious war, and Islam will certainly withdraw the greatest benefit of this."

Wednesday, October 16, 2002


WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 191 - Wed 16 Oct 2002

By Elizabeth Kendal

The conflict in Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) is being portrayed in the media as strife over 'xenophobia', 'justice' and even democracy. However, there is far more to this conflict than initially meets the eye. It is strongly religious (and spiritual) in nature, threatening to cripple mission in West Africa and the Church in Cote d'Ivoire.

On 5 August, mission in South Asia was seriously threatened when over 100 predominantly missionaries' children at the Murree Christian School came under attack by heavily armed Islamist militants (who later blew themselves up). Satan's plan failed and not one child was hurt. Only six weeks later, in mid/late September, mission in West Africa was seriously threatened when some 200 predominantly missionaries' children's lives were put at risk by an outbreak of civil conflict right at the International Christian Academy in Bouake. Once again, the children were all delivered unharmed.

The situation for the Church in Cote d'Ivoire is serious and deteriorating daily. Cote d'Ivoire, a centre for mission, sits atop an ethnic and religious fault-line. Muslims live predominantly in the north and Christians predominantly in the south. Muslims make up 27 percent of the Ivorian population, but in recent years the massive influx of immigrants from neighbouring Islamic nations, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, has boosted the Muslim population to over 50 percent.

For many years, prosperous Cote d'Ivoire has maintained a very hospitable policy regarding immigrants. However, the enormous number of immigrants has created economic and land stress. This is not 'xenophobia', but simply tension created by there not being enough land and jobs to go around, and the fact that wealth is rapidly leaving the country as immigrant workers send it home. It has also created religious tensions as the Muslims want a Muslim government. The conflict is most severe in central Cote d'Ivoire where Muslim immigrants now vastly outnumber the Christian and animist indigenous people of the region. The soldiers who started this conflict are northern Muslims who had been expelled from the army for alleged disloyalty. They attempted a coup and are seeking a change of government. They want their strong-man, Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim, in power.

Christians in rebel-held areas are at severe risk as they generally are loyal to President Gbagbo, a Christian. The rebel soldiers have been arming local Muslims and sending them out to murder 'loyalists' (Christians). Many have already died, some burned to death. Around 150,000 have fled Bouake. In rebel-held areas, villages that are predominantly Christian are being held captive by the rebels and food and water cannot get in. There is much terror and very little assistance.


* God to restore peace to Cote d'Ivoire, for the sake of his Church
and mission in West Africa, 'that Satan may not outsmart us. For
we are very familiar with his evil schemes'. (2 Cor 2:11 NLT)

* all Christians trapped and in immediate serious risk in central
Cote d'Ivoire; may the Lord be their Mighty One, 'like a wide
river of protection that no enemy can cross'. (Isaiah 33:21 NLT).
May he 'frustrate the plans of the wicked'. (Ps 146:9 NLT)