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Muslims slaughtered in Ambon, Indonesia

Following the tragedies of Bosnia, Kosovo and Algeria, Muslims have once again been attacked and slaughtered.  This time, the brutal slaughtering strikes the spice islands of Ambon, Molucca. Ambon has a population of 58% Muslim (most are immigrants) and 41% Christian (most are native). These past two months, Ambon, about 2, 300 km east of Jakarta, has been savaged by religious fighting, killing thousands of Muslims.

It is thought that the big riot began in the afternoon of the Eid Day of 19 Jan 1999 (though previous incidents had already happened on 14 February 1999), when Yopie, a Christian, refused to pay for the car he hired from a Muslim called Usman. Instead, he attacked the Muslim man, causing Usman to ask for protection from the nearest Muslim village. The situation became more tense when Yopie brought some Christians with him to that village.  Fighting between Muslims and Christians then became unavoidable.

The incident was quickly followed by a bigger riot that spread throughout the city of Ambon.  Buildings, shops, markets, houses, cars and mosques were being burned.  During that night and the next day some districts, of which the majority are Muslim, were systematically attacked and burnt. Schools, buildings, mosques, transportation and market stalls owned by Muslims were also flattened and burned. Within hours the riots were spreading to the other villages, towns and islands.The violence is running out of control and has been taking place everyday, even today, despite efforts between Muslim and Christian leaders to hold a public reconciliation meeting.

In all cases, Christians start the attack. It seems that they are very well organised, as they have prepared swords, Molotov bombs, arrows with fire, hunting guns, etc.  The attackers also wear specific marks like a red or purple ribbon around their heads.  During the attacks, Muslims were slaughtered sadistically and barbarically, looted and  then their houses were burnt down.  A witness said they saw the stomach of a pregnant woman being opened, the foetus then taken out and mutilated. Others witnessed that Muslims were tortured heavily before eventually being killed.  Some of the dead bodies and limbs were being cut off and scattered everywhere. There was chanting,  yelling, slogans, posters and graffiti which insulted the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Islam, Muslims and the Al-Qur'an.

The suffering has still not ended. According to the data from one of the Islamic organisations/parties, there were at least 33 mosques burnt down and flattened, thousands injured, and 1, 200 Muslims killed. The daily activities are also hindered.  Muslims in Ambon basically live in threatening, frightening conditions. As a result thousands of Muslims have been forced to flee to nearby provinces or islands, whereas some of them seek refuge in various  places like army barracks and mosques.  Some still prefer to stay at home and stay indoors, although they no longer have any food.

The Army forces and Police seem to be slow in responding to this tragedy, despite the rising of the death toll.  The Muslims' trust for the Police diminished when the Police started to discriminate against the Muslims over Christians, as they seem to let the attackers proceed. In contrast, the Muslims, by Islamic law, are only allowed to defend themselves and not fight back.

The latest big incident happened at the beginning of March, when Muslims were attacked again while doing Fajr Prayer (subuh) in Al-Huda mosque. Nine people were killed; four of which shot dead without warning by some Christian police.  At the same time, other attacks erupted in other parts of Ambon.

Because of all of the rioting and discrimination against Muslims, lots of solidarity action, comprised of students, Muslim youths and Muslim activists, has taken place in many major cities in Indonesia.  The demonstration was done to put a premise on the Government, Police, Army and the so-called Human Rights Commission.  During the  demonstration, Takbir was chanted and Jihad was announced following the failure of the Government to handle this case seriously. In response, the military leadership in Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia) considered sending more troops to Ambon.  However, some think that the Army forces would only be a third party to add to the conflict.

The exact cause of this riot is not known for definite.  However, some theories were proposed.  The first one states the riot erupted because of the spontaneous fighting between Muslims and Christians.  This theory was quickly put aside because all of the attacks against Muslim were not spontaneous and also spread very quickly.  The attackers  seemed to have been prepared for "war".

The second one involves religious conflict theory, because the Christian natives seem to envy the economic success of the Muslim immigrants.  Some reports also indicate that the Christians wanted all Muslims to leave Ambon because they believed Jesus was going to descend in Gudang Arang area (one of the villages in Ambon), hence  Ambon was designated for Christians only.

The third theory is political, which states that there were main provocateurs (probably the elite in the government) who planned the chaos and riots in order to distract attention from the general election.  This theory is supported by the fact that thousand of gangs and criminals were taken from Jakarta to Ambon just a few days before the riot erupted. These criminals could play roles as provocateurs as well as organising and doing the attack itself. The last theory states that it was rebellion, that some people wanted to declare the independence of the South Molucca Republic, which used to be supported by an old Dutch colony.  Some documents regarding this  have been found.

Again, riot, killing, burning, looting has taken place.  Indonesian Muslims are in a bitter position as victims. No justice has been done so far.  In the Reformation Era starting midst 1998 the slaughter against Muslims happened in Banyuwangi, East Jawa, when hundreds of Muslim activists were kidnapped and killed sadistically by the  "Mysterious Ninja" during the night.  This was followed by Muslim attacks in KUPANG (East Timor) and Ketapang (Jakarta), by Christians. Now the worst of all: "MUSLIM MASACRE IN AMBON"

We therefore ask all who read this to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ambon who have to endure great suffering just to live.  We also ask all to make Do'a for the families of martyrs that died for our religion, for those families who will have to live with their traumatic experiences for the rest of their lives.  Please help us collect funds so that food, clothes and medicine can be shipped to Ambon from Jakarta to help some of the 5000 Muslims living in the only mosque left there. As there are no more shops and chemists in Ambon we will send the money and donation directly to an organisation in Jakarta who will forward the helpful goods by ship Insya Allah.

If you would like to send a cheque, please make it payable to N.A. Scoffield/Ambon, Lloyds Bank, Acc. No. 0587276, Sort Code 30-96-91.