German Church Leader Calls For Religious Dialogue In Indonesia

Talks Must Continue Despite Violence by Muslim Extremists
( [email protected] ) Jul 29, 2004 11:19 AM EDT

A German church leader has urged Christians in Indonesia to continue their religious dialogue with Islam despite ongoing attacks by Muslim extremists. These fighters, often flown in from abroad, were out to destroy the good Christian-Muslim relations, said the Rhenish Church President Nikolaus Schneider during his first official visit to the Asian country.

According to Assist News, Schneider, one of the highest-ranking representatives of three million West German Protestants, is visiting Indonesia July 23 – August 8. During his visit, he is scheduled to meet with President Megawati Sukarnoputri and leaders of the Muslim community in Jakarta August 2 and 3. Schneider has also announced that he will address human rights issues and the problem of religious violence.

Since his arrival in Indonesia, Schneider has reportedly met with the leader of the Protestant Toba Batak Church, Jabil Raplan Hauturuk in Siantar already. During the meeting, Hauturuk explained that traditionally Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully side-by-side, however recently Islam had been abused for political purposes.

Wilfried Neusel, the Rhenish church officer for ecumenical relations, encouraged the Indonesian churches to report incidents of violence to their ecumenical partners. Through its political channels the Rhenish Church would try to continually bring the subject up with the Indonesian government.

According to sources, Muslim terrorists have recently targeted the Christian minority in Indonesia with higher frequency. In an attack on a church in Sulawesi, July 18, Reverend Susianty Tinulele, 26, was shot dead in the pulpit when four masked men with machine guns reportedly burst in to the Efatah Church in Palu. Four other worshippers were seriously wounded, including 17-year-old Desrianti Tengkede, who was originally reported as having died following the attack, although sources later confirmed that she was in fact in a coma and is currently in critical condition in intensive care.

Recent reports show that 80 percent of Indonesia's 220 million inhabitants are Muslim, while 16 percent are Christians, two percent Hindus and one percent animists.