By Open Doors Southern Africa
Four Christian men from Kalimago Village, Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, were beheaded by Islamic extremists on Tuesday (May 11).
Central Sulawesi is the same province where Sigi is located – the area where another four believers were murdered on November 27 last year.
The attack was allegedly carried out by members of the terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) and 5 million IDR (roughly R4 900) belonging to one of the victims was reportedly taken by the suspects. All four victims are believers – two victims were members of the Mamasa Toraja Church, another was from the Toraja Church and the last victim attended a Catholic Church in the area. The victims are between 42 to 61 years old.
A local partner of Open Doors International in Indonesia, Ari Hartono*, shares that this comes as a shock to believers in Central Sulawesi still reeling from the November attack. He says: “Central Sulawesi locals are still traumatised from the terrorist attack in Sigi last November and have not recovered yet. They need our prayers now.
“We’re not sure if the attack is religiously motivated, even though the victims are believers. It could also be an act of survival. After the Sigi incident, the terrorists in Central Sulawesi have been increasingly pressed by the police and the army. Their logistics is exhausted. The only way to survive is to rob people of foodstuffs. In this area, there are many farmers who live in the forest far from the village and they were the ones targeted by the terrorists.”
The incident took place at about 7.30am. Kombes Pol Didik Supranoto of the Central Sulawesi regional police told local media that a witness was on his way to his field when he saw five people approaching. He recognised one of these unknown “guests” as a member of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) from the placards of members of the terrorist group in public spaces.
According to Supranoto, the witness ran away to warn the people in his village about this. On his way home, he met with his two friends and told them to run away, but they refused, thinking that those people must be soldiers and not the terrorists. Later, both of them were found killed.
At first, it was reported that two people were killed, but after the Madago Raya Task Force combed the surrounding area where the first two victims were found, they found two other victims. Open Doors’ local partners are now trying to reach out to the churches and families of the victims to support them.
Hartono says fear and intimidation are common among Christians in Poso and Central Sulawesi. “As long as those terrorists are not caught, the threat is lingering. People are afraid to go to their field, so they cannot work and produce crops. It has a huge negative impact on their economic wellbeing.”
Jan Gouws, executive director of Open Doors Southern Africa, says he is shocked about the incident.
“The sharp rise in the persecution of Christians all over the world is really alarming. It can be attributed to the spread of Islamic militancy, radical ideologies and extremist attacks. It is very distressing to hear how attacks on believers are intensified and how they are killed in extremely cruel ways.