On Saturday 29th October a group of Christian school-girls in Indonesia were attacked, apparently by Islamic militants. Three were beheaded and a fourth was severely wounded.
At 7.00 a.m. the girls were making their way to their Christian school through a cocoa plantation, a mile from the village of Sayo, near Poso city, Central Sulawesi. They were set upon by a group of men who attacked them with machetes. Half an hour later the three decapitated bodies were discovered. Later in the morning one head was found outside a church, eight miles from the scene of the attack (leading many to suspect a religious motive to the murders) and the other two heads were found near a police station five miles from Poso.
The murdered girls were Theresia Murangke (14), Ida Lambuaga (15) and Alfina Yarni Sambue (15). Another girl, Noviana Malewa (14) was able to escape the attack, though receiving severe machete wounds to her face. She is under guard in Poso General Hospital.
Anti-Christian Violence in Central Sulawesi
Central Sulawesi, and in particular the Poso area, has been the scene of much anti-Christian violence since 1998 with Islamic militants coming to the region from all over Indonesia. Many Christian villages have been systematically burned. A government-brokered agreement in December 2001 eventually led to a decrease in violence, but it has never ceased. The highest loss of life in a single incident this year occurred when two bombs exploded in a market place in the mainly Christian town of Tentena, killing
at least 20 people. Many individual murders of Christians have also
occurred, especially those in leadership positions; for example, in July
2004 a pastor was shot dead while preaching in Palu.
Condemned by the President
Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, publicly condemned the attacks and called an immediate cabinet meeting, which resulted in two very senior individuals in the police and intelligence being dispatched to Poso.
But some Indonesian Christians are doubtful about how much will be achieved, given the security forces' record of reluctance to protect Christians or to bring their attackers to justice. Indonesian church leader Rinaldy Damanik was released from prison in November 2004 after serving nearly two years on a trumped up charge, simply for trying to publicise the anti-Christian violence in Central Sulawesi.