Churches Fear Indonesian Fight Against Terror will Bring More Tribulations

Nov 11, 2002 03:00 AM EST

Bielefeld, Germany -- Some Christians in Indonesia fear the Indonesian government will use the security clampdowns in effect since the 12 October bombing in Bali as an excuse to curtail the human rights of minority groups in the country, including those of churches.

Problems facing Christians in Indonesia, who make up less than 10 per cent of the 210 million population in the country, were highlighted in Stuttgart recently at a gathering of Asian churches and the Evangelical Mission of Southwest Germany (EMS) members.

Participants heard that churches could also face harassment in a "new war against terrorism" following the bomb attack on Bali that killed nearly 200 people, many of them Australian tourists.

Tony Waworuntu of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), an ecumenical grouping with 121 member churches in 18 Asian countries, voiced his concern at a press conference in Stuttgart before a meeting focusing on Indonesian "women against violence".

The 25 to 27 October church meeting near Stuttgart was part of the "decade to overcome violence" launched by the World Council of Churches.

Sunnite Muslims account for 87 per cent of the Indonesian population, Protestants 6.5 per cent and Roman Catholics, 3 per cent. Conflicts between different religions are seen as having their roots in the ethnic and economic problems that remained when Indonesia gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949.

"Many of these conflicts have been used in recent power struggles," said pastor David Tulaar, a member of the EMS staff responsible for mission work in Indonesia.

Tulaar and Waworuntu believed that Indonesian anti-terror laws would mean the reintroduction of the death penalty and would give more power to anti-terror-forces. "This will strengthen the country's military forces," said Tulaar, and it could mean that
political or social opposition to the government would be taken as terrorist action.

Waworuntu explained that in order to root out terrorism in Asia, the government had to fight political and economic mismanagement.

He noted that bloody conflicts were frequent in many Asian countries, and that church and missionary organisations such as the EMS could further human rights by facilitating dialogue between conflicting parties.

Six German churches and four missionary organizations form the EMS, who have partnerships with 17 churches in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

By Frauke Brauns