Christian Groups Call on Prayers for Indonesian Christians after Beheadings

Since the beheadings of three Christian girls in Poso last Saturday, international Christian groups have

Since the beheadings of three Christian girls in Poso last Saturday, international Christian groups have condemned the attacks and expressed deep concern over the safety of Indonesian Christians.

"This is a sickening and horrific attack on innocent schoolgirls. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost their loved ones in such a brutal attack," stated Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based Christian human rights watchdog.

The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also condemned the attacks and ordered the police to track down the perpetrators under the pressure of local churches. Although no individuals have been accused of the crime thus far, Christians and the security forces apparently blamed Islamic extremists for a series of attacks, according to the Associated Press.

The three Christian high school students from the Byuym Boyo village near the Poso city in the province of Central Sulawesi were attacked by men on their way to school with machetes and beheaded at around 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 29, CSW’s report stated. They were Ida Sambue and Theresa, both 16, and Alfita aged 18. The fourth girl, Noviana, 16, was also left injured in the attack.

The heads of the three were later found inside plastic bags near a church and a police station, with a warning written on them that another 100 Christian teenagers would be killed, CSW reported.

In the midst of rising tension between Muslims and Christians, 1,500 Indonesian troopers are on high alert fearing a new wave of violence and revenge may break out, AP reported – especially when Muslims were preparing to greet the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last Thursday.

Regardless, "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," according to a statement released by the UK-based Christian organization Barnabas Fund.

The Barnabas Fund recalled that Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, Moderator for the Central Sulawesi Christian Reform Church and Chairmen of the Central Sulawesi Churches Crisis Co-ordination Center, was imprisoned for two years simply for trying to bring attention to the anti-Christian violence in Central Sulawesi. He was released in November 2004.

Christian residents said yesterday to AP that they were afraid to leave their homes. "We are really scared," said Noldi, a Christian who lives in the same village as the three murdered girls.

Until individuals responsible for Saturday’s attacks are found, Muslim and Christian leaders are calling on their followers to remain calm and to resist from revenge. According to CSW, even though Damanik is currently on a speaking tour of the UK with CSW, the central Sulawesi Chief of Police and local churches have asked him to return to help calm the situation.

Damanik said in the CSW statement, "I would like the international community to encourage the Indonesian government to take action to bring peace and stability to the Poso region of Central Sulawesi."

Lambert of CSW added, "CSW will continue to support the reconciliation process and all the more so in light of this recent violence. We call on the Indonesian authorities to bring those responsible to justice and to take appropriate and expedient measures to restore calm to the region."

Meanwhile, Barnabas Fund called on Christians to pray for the devastated families of the slain Christian girls as well as for the Christian community, that God will give them comfort and peace. Barnabas Fund also urged prayers for 16-year-old Noviana – the sole survivor of last month’s attack – that she can recover soon physically and spiritually.

Moreover, Barnabas Fund urges prayer that "the Indonesian government and security forces will follow through their verbal promises by actively pursuing the murderers and ensuring real justice is served" and that they will also "act to protect Christians in Indonesia from further violence."

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