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Suspected terrorists kill 4 Christians, burn church members’ homes after attack on Salvation Army’s service post

Suspected terrorists kill 4 Christians, burn church members’ homes after attack on Salvation Army’s service post

Members of the clergy conduct Easter mass in an empty church and streamed online as part of social distancing measures amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on April 12, 2020. | ADEK BERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Police in the Muslim-majority archipelago of Indonesia were searching for suspected terrorists Saturday after the throats of three Christians were slit, another was beheaded and a Salvation Army post and Christians' homes were burned down on the island of Sulawesi, according to reports.

About 10 people from a "terrorist" group carried out the killing on Friday morning in a hilly, remote village near the region of Sigi in Central Sulawesi province, Reuters reported, based on what national police spokesman Awi Setiyono said in a television interview.

The suspected terrorists also set fire to a church and burned down the homes of six churchgoers after they attacked the Lewonu Lembantongoa Service Post of the Salvation Army, the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern reported.

ICC said they saw a video showing a charred victim being pulled from a pile of ruins, with smoke still rising in the background. “The fowler position of the body suggests the agony and pain endured by the victim before death.”

“ICC mourns the death of the Indonesian brothers and sisters who were brutally murdered by the alleged terrorist,” Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said. “We urge the Indonesian government to take necessary measures to hold him accountable and put him to justice. Such senseless act cannot be tolerated in the country that boasts ‘Pancasila,’ the state ideology which promotes religious harmony and tolerance.”

The Salvation Army International confirmed the attack on Saturday, saying that their building along with six homes of members were burned.

"WITH great sadness, The Salvation Army confirms that an attack upon the Lewono Lembantongoa Outpost, Indonesia, on Friday 27 November 2020 has claimed the lives of four members."

Members of The Salvation Army were called to observe a three-minute silence on Sunday and to pray for the grieving families and congregations, and for God’s peace.

As police investigate, they have increased protection for the villages in the area, according to the organization.

In 2018, 15 people were killed and 57 others were injured in suicide bombings in the Surabaya area in East Java that targeted three churches — Innocent Saint Mary Catholic Church, Indonesia Christian Church and Surabaya Central Pentecost Church. The government suspected that terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group were behind the attacks.

The Southeast Asian country is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Its Constitution is based on the doctrine of Pancasila — five principles upholding the nation’s belief in the one and only God and social justice, humanity, unity and democracy for all.

However, there are many extremist groups in Indonesia, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), and the Islamic Community Forum (FUI). These groups oppose the Pancasila and “Christianization,” which for them is mainly conversion of Muslims and building of Christian houses of worship.

These groups, which are not locally seen as terrorist groups, give a Quranic sanction to their fight against Christians. They often use verse 120 of Al-Baqara, the Quran’s longest chapter, which states: “And never the Jews and Christians will be pleased with you unless you follow their Din (creed). Say then! ‘The guidance of Allah is the only guidance’, (O listener who he may be) if you become a follower of their desires, after the knowledge that has come to you, then no one will be your protector from Allah and no helper…”

Reacting to Friday’s killing and arson, Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Reuters, “This attack is another serious escalation against the Christian minority in Indonesia.”

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