A week after the November 27 terrorist attack on the Salvation Army’s service post in central Sulawesi, the Indonesian government has dispatched Special Forces to hunt down the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) terrorists responsible, but President Widodo’s administration continues to deny that the killing was religiously motivated.
On November 30, the president expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and pleaded for unity in Indonesian. However, he failed to specifically mention the killing of four Christians or the radical Islamists who killed them.
His security forces have also repeatedly stressed that the attack was not religiously motivated. Sulawesi’s public relations head of the police, Didik Supranoto, said that the attack was not religiously motivated because “no church was burned [in the place attacked].”
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The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Mahfud Md also came out to say that the murders were not related to religion.
This rhetoric represents half-truths designed to avoid losing face with Indonesia’s fundamentalist voters. Yet, this is unsurprising considering the historical treatment of Christians in Indonesia.
For many years, Indonesian Christians have suffered from discrimination at the hands of their government. In Indonesia, it is nearly impossible for churches to obtain a building permit (IMB) due to a discriminatory decree. As a result, many Christians have to gather in homes, hotels, or malls, as in the case of Sigi.
The Salvation Army confirmed in its press release that its service post (church) and residents’ homes in Lewonu, Lembantongoa, Sigi Regency were torched in this attack.
Jakarta’s attempt to hide the religious motivation of the attackers is a mockery of the truth. The assailants behind this incident belong to the MIT, a known Islamist terror group that specifically targeted a Christian organization. They are considered to be the deadliest Islamist cell in Sulawesi.
They have also shown great pride in their connections to ISIS.
In 2014, they made history as the first Islamist terror group in Indonesia to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. This allegiance has only deepened over the years, culminating in last week’s attack, in which one Christian was decapitated, keeping in step with common Islamist terror practices.
Indonesia has a dark history of anti-Christian violence. From 1997 to 2004, Islamists murdered thousands of Christians, so this issue must be boldly addressed by the Indonesian government.
ICC’s President, Jeff King, said, “The latest terrorist attack in Sulawesi is nothing novel, as the region has been a historical hotbed for Islamic terrorism. For decades, both Jemaah Islamiyah and the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen have utilized the mountainous region to conduct their jihadist activities. ICC is calling on President Widodo to vocally condemn the latest attack as religiously motivated and to stridently condemn the murder of Christians. The president’s silence can be seen as condoning, or at worst abetting, the actions and attitudes of Islamic fanatics.”
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