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It takes a nation to protect the nation

Forced Conversions, Circumcision in Moluccas

January 19, 2001

Conflict in the Moluccas is set to enter a third year with no end to the
violence in sight. Disturbing new reports suggest Christian communities are
facing forcible conversion and circumcision, adding a new dimension to a
conflict that has already caused untold suffering. By conservative
estimates at least 5000 have been killed and a further 500,000 displaced.
Whilst the majority of Moluccans wish to see the conflict resolved, Islamist
extremists and elements in the government and armed forces are widely
believed to be behind the continuing violence.

In a disturbing new development, hundreds of Christian families are being
forced to convert to Islam or face death. Entire Christians villages are
currently held captive by militants in East Seram, Keswui and Teor Islands
facing the daily threat of violence.

A disturbing pattern is emerging. Christian villagers receive an ultimatum
to convert to Islam or face being killed. The Christians are told that they
will be safe as long as they convert to Islam. Men are often separated from
their families and kept under guard, whilst women and children are taken in
by local Muslims. On a number of occasions, they have been taken to the
local mosque, given 'religious training', and forced to adopt a Muslim name.
Muslim militants have also targeted survivors of previous attacks who were
hiding in the jungle.

Eyewitness reports tell of men and children forcibly circumcised without
painkillers and using dirty instruments. Refugees from Keswui report that
many of the Christians there were circumcised with the same razor blade
causing heavy bleeding. The Christians were then told to wash in the sea to
disinfect their wounds.

Particularly disquieting are reports of women forced to undergo female
genital mutilation (FGM), a barbaric practice that has been condemned

According to the Crisis Centre Diocese of Amboina, a human rights
information centre, many of the circumcised Christians need urgent medical
attention. As many as 473, out of a total of 692 Catholics in Keswui, have
been forced to convert to Islam. The fate of the remaining 219 Catholics is

The information CSW has received suggests that the predominantly Protestant
Christian population of Seram is the current target of the Jihad militants.

Whilst the Indonesian government has acknowledged these forced conversions
and has sent investigation teams to Keswui and Teor, it has yet to take
sufficient measures to successfully evacuate the Christian captives.

In the meantime, hundreds of Christians and their families are being forced
to deny their faith and are being held against their will, facing the threat
of violence.

LASKAR JIHAD (Jihad Force)
Laskar Jihad, claiming over 10,000 members, has sent thousands of jihad
'warriors' into the Moluccas. According to Government officials, up to 2000
members of this Muslim militant group still remain in the Moluccas. Despite
repeated government statements that these militants will not be allowed
access to the islands, members appear to be able to travel freely into the
area and act with impunity. Over 400 Jihad warriors arrived in the Moluccas
on November 11 alone.

Of particular concern is the freedom with which the leader of the Jihad
force, Abdul Jaffar Umar Thalib, is able to travel to and from the Moluccas.
His inflammatory speech at a mosque in Ambon during his September visit
re-ignited the violence after a slight lull in August. Laskar Jihad has
threatened to bring the violence to the streets of Jakarta should the
government take action to curtail its activities.

Evidence suggests that Laskar Jihad receives assistance from elements in the
government and the armed forces as well as from international Islamist

Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, spoke of his concern for those
caught up in the violence. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those
suffering, whether through the loss of a loved one or the confusion and pain
of displacement. It is imperative that the international community acts
decisively and compassionately to help bring this conflict and suffering to
an end. Whilst the Indonesian government has tried to resolve the conflict
peacefully, it is clearly evident that peace and reconciliation efforts have
little chance of success unless the members of the militant organisation,
Laskar Jihad, and other outside provocateurs, are removed from the area".

CSW is calling for Western governments to provide assistance for the
immediate evacuation to safety of those threatened with forced conversion.

CSW also calls on the Western government to urge the Indonesian Government
to allow for international assistance in the Moluccas; and to facilitate the
sending of human rights monitors to the area as a matter of urgency.

A representative of the Moluccan Christian community in the UK concurs
stating: "After 2 years of fighting, despite mediation and reconciliation
efforts, surely there is a role now for the international community to step
in and assist the Indonesian government to maintain peace in Moluccas and to
investigate the large-scale human rights violations being committed there."

For further information, photos, video footage and a campaign sheet, please
contact CSW offices on tel.+44 208 942 8810/fax. +44 208 942 8821.

Source: CSW sources, Masariku Network, Crisis Centre Diocese of Amboina

The following Christian villages have been forced to convert to Islam
according to a Siwalima newspaper:

East Seram - near Bula town (north coast)
Salas Village, Bolan Village, Bonfia Village, Dalan Village

Several other villages are believed to be at risk of forced conversions.

Evacuation of refugees from Hatu and Hatumete villages
CSW highlighted the plight of some 700 Christians living in Hatu and
Hatumete who received an ultimatum to convert to Islam by November 31.

The refugees from Hatumete, Salamahu and Ursina villages were all sheltering
in Hatu and were in danger of attack by the Muslim militants.

They were evacuated to safety by Masariku Network, an Indonesian human
rights organisation, before the 'deadline' run out. However, the refugees
are in urgent need of food, shelter and medicines.

Many of the Hatu villagers, however, have decided to remain behind to defend
their village.

CSW assisted financially with some of the evacuations.
(Note: Photos and video-footage available)

2. KESWUI ISLAND (also known as Kasui and Kesui island)
Location: Between South-Eastern tip of Seram (Ceram)island and Kei Island

Hitherto untouched by the conflict, the predominantly Catholic Christian
population of Keswui Island was unexpectedly attacked by Muslim militants
from the surrounding islands of Geser and Gorong leaving at least 9 people
dead and several villages destroyed.

Utta village: Attacked November 23, Karlomin village: Attacked November 24
Wunin village: Attacked November 26, Tanasoa village: Attacked November 26.

Survivors fled to the jungle. There they received an ultimatum to convert to
Islam or be killed.

Three evacuation attempts have been made so far but these have been largely
unsuccessful due to inadequate security in the face of threatened attacks by
Muslim militants. Women and children were kept in the villages as hostages
to ensure that the men taken on board the evacuation ship would declare that
they had converted voluntarily and did not wish to be evacuated.

Location: Next to Keswui island

There are six predominantly Catholic Christian villages on Teor. Many of the
Christians fled to Kei Islands after the attacks in Keswui.

According to Crisis Centre out of the 841 Catholics in Teor, 142 have been
forced to convert to Islam. Some 300 Christians managed to escape to Kei. A
further 400 Christians are still in Teor.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Views: 205

Replies to This Discussion

Christians mutilated in "holy war"

Victims tell harrowing tales of forced circumcision in the growing holy war in Indonesia’s Maluku islands. Lindsay Murdoch reports.

In December, Christina Sagat and other Christians from her village on the island of Kesui, part of the Indonesian Maluku group, were forced to convert to Islam. The conversion included forced circumcision, a mutilation inflicted on hundreds in the isolated island group by extremists of a jihad (Islamic holy war) movement.

She shakes with fear but is determined not to cry as she tells her story. Her wounds have healed but this 32-year-old woman is left with the deep pain of unresolved sorrow and humiliation. There is also the pain of betrayal - how could her neighbours, with whom she had lived in harmony, turn on her and lead her to a cruel ordeal?

“I feel sad, I feel like I’m no longer ‘complete’, both as a person and a woman,” she said, speaking amid the ruins of Ambon City, the epicentre of the Maluku tragedy.

This is her story.

I was born and raised in Karlomin, a Catholic village in Kesui island. The island itself is actually dominated by Muslims. Kesui is a very beautiful place, it has a white sandy beach. I lived with my parents and seven brothers and sisters, in-laws, nieces and nephews. I used to help my parents take care of our small plantations.

Catholics, Protestants and Muslims used to live peacefully before those local followers of jihad came to the island. In the past, we could hang out and visit friends and families from different religions. If, for example, the Christians were constructing a new church, the Muslims would automatically help, and vice versa.

At first, we did not believe it when we heard about the bloody conflict in Ambon and rumours that the Muslims would attack Christian villages in Kesui. We said it was impossible that our own friends and neighbours would attack us.

As the situation in Ambon got worse, religious and customary leaders in Kesui met and agreed to stay away from the conflict. About late October, people from nearby islands who had joined the jihad visited Muslim villages often. But the Christians at that time did not see that as a problem.

We realised the visits of jihad people were the likely seed of the disaster in the island when my uncle was attacked by Muslim youths in the neighbouring Muslim village. My uncle, as usual, went to buy cigarette papers in that village. But on his way out of the village the mob surrounded him and attacked him. He suffered severe spear and machete wounds all over his body. He was bleeding but managed to get back to our village. But still (before he died) he told us not to take revenge. So we buried him and did exactly what he asked us.

But on the next day, another Christian youth was attacked. We heard that the attacker went back to his Muslim village and told his friends that the Christians were ready to attack them.

After the second murder, some of the Christians started to believe the rumours about the possible war between Muslims and Christians on the island and fled to the mountains or nearby islands.

But many others, including my family, stayed behind. My father was one of the village’s cultural leaders so he had to stay to protect the village. In the third week of November, we eventually decided to flee after learning that Muslim mobs were marching toward our village. We packed some clothes, food and valuables and rushed to the mountains.

We were very scared. We regretted the fact that we had not made the decision to save our lives earlier.

There were about 260 people from my village who stayed on the mountain. But, on the fourth day ... some of our Muslim neighbours found us and told us to follow their religion for our own sake. They said they could not protect us from the jihad people if we were not Muslims.

It’s very hard to us, but we finally decided to follow the Muslims to their village and do whatever they told us to do in order to save our lives. We’re fully aware that refusing to do so would only get us all killed.

The Muslim representatives told us to go straight to a mosque in Kampung Baru village so that when the jihad arrived they would think that we had already become Muslims. When we reached the village, the crowd of people and local jihad followers were already waiting for us; they made a barricade along the path to the mosque. I felt like we were just a group of hopeless sheep being led to a slaughterhouse.

There we realised that all that the Muslim representatives had told us was completely lies. They had cheated us. They acted as if they cared about our lives, but the truth was they only wanted us to convert to Islam, nothing more.

When we all entered the mosque, the habib (Islamic preacher) asked us whether we really wanted to be Muslims. I felt miserable. The habib then told us to say the Al Fatiha prayer (chanted when a person adopts Islam) three times. I did not remember any of the words at all because I did not say it. I just opened my mouth but in my heart I said my own Catholic prayers.

The Muslim crowd inside and outside the mosque yelled and waved their machetes, spears. We all cried. I felt mixed up, scared. I told my mum, who sat beside me, “Why do we have to go through all of of this? It is not a self- willing act, it’s coercion. I can’t do this. But what else can I do. We would only be killed if we refused it, wouldn’t we?”

Meanwhile, the crowd in the mosque searched our bags, they took out the Bibles, Rosary necklaces and small statues of Mary, which were torn and broken to pieces and burnt outside the mosque.

Some of the Muslims shed tears. But I’m sure that’s tears of joy because they could finally make us convert to Islam. Some of the people said “Why on earth did you not follow us earlier?”

We, especially the men, were told to perform Muslim prayers at the mosque. But I tried to avoid it. I didn’t want to do that, did not know the prayers and did not give a damn.

The Muslims did not stop their acts there; they continued with the forced circumcisions. All of us, men and women, old and young, even infants and pregnant women, were circumcised under threat. At least 100 females were circumcised.

The team went to the houses where we stayed in turn. They came to the house where I stayed on December 4. I asked the Muslim family about who would perform it, whether I would be given anaesthetic, etc. They told me female priests would do the circumcision using a kitchen knife and no anaesthetic was necessary. I said to myself, “What? What kind of circumcision is this? How come they do not bother about the sanitary and health factors of it?”

So I tried to avoid them. I pretended not to hear them calling my name. I stayed in my room. I was very, very scared. My body’s shaking. I could imagine myself being circumcised. But I realised there was nothing I could do to stop them from doing it because they would certainly kill me and my family if I refused.

So I reluctantly came out of my room and entered another room. They told me to undress and sit on a chair which was covered with white cloth. “Open your legs,” they said. I saw under the chair a coconut shell filled with water and a kitchen knife. I said. “Oh My God, what would happen to me?” I was so scared, upset too. But I did not dare to resist them, I didn’t want to be killed.

At first the woman soaked her fingers in the water and then inserted them into my vagina as she looked for the clitoris. After she found it, she pulled it out, took out the kitchen knife and cut it. That hurt very much. I shed tears. They left just like that without giving me any medication.

I was lucky, I had some money and went to the store immediately to get antibiotics. I know the men suffered more than us women. The circumcision hurt them more that it did to us because their scars could not heal fast. Several of the men I knew got serious infections after suffering from severe bleeding.

My scar healed quite fast, but the sad, humiliated feeling stayed until today.

My niece, Cecilia, who at that time was eight months pregnant, was also circumcised. How could they do that to her? I heard she cried. But she did not talk about it a lot, maybe she just wanted to bury it. My mother, who is in her 70s, was also circumcised.

Teenagers and even infants were also circumcised. Children were told to soak themselves in the salt water, on the beach, to help healing their scars.

I don’t understand these people. I don’t think the original Ambon Muslim female adults were circumcised. But they insisted we be circumcised.

(On December 15, a ship arrived under government supervision to take Christians to the relative safety of Ambon, a move resisted by jihad leaders.)

I did not want to miss the chance, so I came over to the houses where my mother and father stayed and asked them to go to the beach to board the ship. But when we got to the beach, we saw most of the people who had boarded the ship had returned to the beach.

Then I learnt that jihad leaders were protesting at the way the government team did its job. I guess they just did not want us to leave the island and return to our original religion.

We were scared because it was obvious that the government team was helpless. I decided then to get off the island. I told my mum I would leave. I said, “Mother, if I could board that ship, I would not go down here again.” My mum was very sad, “You’re leaving, don’t you love me any more?” I told her: “I will go, but I will find a way to get you and Dad out of the island.”

The ship left with only 41 people, including me. There were about 100 people, including my brothers and their families and some Christian leaders, who had boarded the ship but then returned to the beach under the Muslims’ threat. The Muslims told them that their families who were still on the island would surely be killed if they left.

We arrived in Ambon at night after almost three days on the ship.

I now stay at the refugee camp at the Stella Maria Church in the Benteng district. I work as a housemaid with a local Christian family.

I don’t know what I will do with my future. I guess the first thing to do is to find a way to get my parents off the island. But I don’t know how.

Sometimes when I’m alone I cry if I remember what happened to me there. What makes me sad the most is my uncle who was bleeding and dying of the stabs and wounds but still had a good heart, asking us not to take revenge for him.

As for the circumcision, the scar is completely healed. But somehow, I feel sad, I feel like I’m no longer “complete” both as a person and a woman.

This week Christina Sagat was rebaptised at a Catholic Church in Ambon City, along with dozens of other Christians from Kesui who were forced to convert to Islam. She told her story to Christiani Tumelap, assistant to the Herald correspondent in Jakarta.

Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 27 January, 2001
"Particularly disquieting are reports of women forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), a barbaric practice that has been condemned worldwide".

but NOT condemned by the head of Islam in Egypt. Even worse, the Egyptian delegate to the UNHRC has succeeded in getting any discussion of this topic with respect to that religious approval, banned in the council. In a country such as Egypt, such a religious proclamation against FGM would have enormous effect and be even more binding than legal regulation.

So there you have it. A filthy trick (failure to condemn or clarify the position) upon a filthy trick (banning all discussion of the topic).
"There is also the pain of betrayal - how could her neighbours, with whom she had lived in harmony, turn on her and lead her to a cruel ordeal?"

Doesn't she know that Muslims should never take the kuffar as friends or protectors? So its ok to use them and smile on the outside at the pigs and dogs, whilst despising and hating them on the inside.
We don't need to worry about this do we? There are a lot of brave Guardian readers, UAF supporters and liberal thinkers in our government who will find many reasons why this is not a religious problem at all but just another of the 'governance' problems of an emerging economy. They will put their lives on the line to say to all their Islamist friends something like "the situation of mutual 'ethnic conflict' in Indonesia is sad isn't it?". That is such a risk as after all, their Muslim friend might scowl at them for implying that anything could possibly be going wrong in a country which is governed by the wisdom of the holy prophet. Why, thats as dangerously provocative as reminding them about the 3000 people killed in 9/11! How dare we?

Anyway, after sticking out their necks so couragously, they'll then go off for a nice lunch with their friends where they can discuss the 'threat' from the right in the UK, and where they are going for their next holiday - somewhere nice like Indonesia or Thailand probably, where they can get away from it all. One can only hope that those kuffir wander into the wrong area and get their throats cut.


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Most Western societies are based on Secular Democracy, which itself is based on the concept that the open marketplace of ideas leads to the optimum government. Whilst that model has been very successful, it has defects. The 4 Freedoms address 4 of the principal vulnerabilities, and gives corrections to them. 

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