Five people were killed last June when Muslim Jihad fighters attacked a police station, several houses, and a church in the city of Ambon in the Indonesian Moluccas region.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, although the Moluccas, also known as the Spice Islands, have a large Christian population.The deaths followed an earlier attack against a Christian village that left 180 Christians dead. More than 2,000 people have been killed over the past 18 months in fighting between Christian and Muslim gangs.
In July, a massacre took place in the Christian village of Waai. The village, including the church, was destroyed, the Indonesian agency Antara reports. The bodies of 22 persons were found among the ruins, while some 60 were wounded and hundreds have fled into the forest.
The attack was meticulously planned. Supported by a Jihad commando from Laskar (the fundamentalist paramilitary movement, which secretly moved over 3,000 trained men into the archipelago last May), the inhabitants of Liang and Telehu, two nearby villages, unleashed their first attack.
The following day, the guerrillas levelled the last few buildings and set fire to the area, implementing what Auxiliary Bishop Jos Tethool of Ambon denounced as "the burnt earth tactic."
The incident was the most serious since the end of June, when Jakarta authorities declared a state of emergency in the Moluccas. However, the measure appears to have been more in the way of a formality, as it had little practical impact. Clashes and violence have continued uninterruptedly with further deaths. Accusations against the army, which appeared inactive and even disposed to support the Muslims, are increasingly frequent, and not just by Christians.
The highest price is being paid by the civilian population, with 70,000 Christians requesting permission to leave Ambon Island. Fr Agus Ulahaiyanan, the missionary responsible for the Ambon Catholic diocesan crisis centre, told the Misna agency that at present there are 200,000 people on the island in a state of emergency: "The lack of food resources has become oppressive; innumerable people have lost their homes and property in the incidents."
While the Bishop of Ambon is in Geneva seeking UN assistance, the Indonesian Government's position remains unchanged. President Abdurrahman Wahid is opposed to any foreign intervention, allowing only restricted humanitarian aid.
Zenit News Service