Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The city of Poso, in the Indonesian
province of Central Sulawesi, has been the scene of renewed sectarian violence
against the local Protestant minority. Overnight on Sunday, unknown assailants set
fire to the Madele Pentecostal Church. The quick intervention of the
congregation stopped the fire from spreading and spared the building from
serious damages. The anti-Christian attack "occurred last night around midnight,"
Poso Police Chief Eko Santoso said, confirming the sectarian nature of the
incident. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, but Poso Regency (District)
has a large Christian community. It saw bloody clashes that left thousands of
people dead on both sides until a peace deal was struck in 2002.
The fire started when a collection box was doused with
petrol and then set alight. Flames eventually spread to the pastor's residence.
Only the intervention of the fire department and volunteers prevented the blaze
from causing major damages to the two buildings. Rev Aben thanked villagers,
including "some Muslims," who came to rescue, playing a decisive role in
preventing the fire from spreading.
Yesterday, two car bombs also exploded near a police traffic
post, wounding three people, including two police agents on duty at the time. Investigators
believe the post was the target.
terrorist group used a sophisticated device in which they detonated the bomb
remotely through a mobile handset," one agent said.
In recent weeks, Poso has been the scene of renewed sectarian
violence. The port city has seen attacks against Christian-owned buildings,
including places of worship.
Two law enforcement agents have also been murdered under
mysterious circumstances. They went missing whilst investigating a recent
attack against a prominent member of the Christian community. Their bodies were
found after eight days on the side of a road near a training centre connected
to an extremist Muslim group.
Between 1997 and 2001, Christians and Muslims were involved
in a violent conflict on Sulawesi Island and neighbouring Maluku Islands. Thousands
of people died and hundreds of churches and mosques were destroyed. Thousands of
homes were also razed. About half a million people found themselves homeless,
25,000 in Poso alone.
On 20 December 2001, the two sides reached a truce that was
signed in Malino, South Sulawesi, following a peace initiative by the
government. The local population is evenly split between Christians and
Despite the peace deal, terrorist incidents continued on and
leaving a trail of innocent victims. One of the most horrific cases, which caused
indignation around the world, was the
beheading by Muslim extremists in October 2005 of three Christian girls on
their way to school.