World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Appeal to Indonesian Government to end impunity

12 January 2000

Letter sent to H.E. President Abdurrahman Wahid, 12 January 2000.

Your Excellency,

The World Council of Churches has closely monitored the developments in Indonesia over the past year. Last January, an international ecumenical delegation sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia made a pastoral visit to Indonesia. The delegation in its meeting with former President B. J. Habibie and his senior cabinet colleagues expressed concern, amongst others, at the communal violence and destruction taking place in the port city of Ambon. The delegation was assured by the former President that perpetrators responsible for acts of violence and for fostering religious hostilities would be brought to trial before courts of law.

 In the aftermath of the violence between Muslims and Christians, the churches and the National Council in Indonesia have unfailingly cooperated with the authorities in their efforts to restore peace and harmony in the Malukus region. It is one year since the trouble began, yet there is no sign of the situation being brought under control. Several attempts were made to restore peace and to defuse tension; the most recent one was the signing of the Declaration to End the Conflict by the leaders of the two communities. This was followed by Your Excellency's own visit to the region in mid-December 1999. All these efforts seem to have gone in vain as the spate of killings and destruction continues unabated. The burning of the Silo Church in Ambon a day after Christmas came as a rude shock not only to the Christians in Indonesia but also to the people at large.

In recent days the situation in the Moluccas has rapidly deteriorated despite heavy deployment of the additional units of the Indonesian security forces. It is the primary task of the security forces to maintain law and order and to protect the lives and property of the people; in this however they have not succeeded. In fact the perceived partisan approach of the personnel of the security forces has further aggravated an already difficult situation. The inability of the security forces to restore law and order and to bring the killings to an end is a sad reflection on the Indonesian Government.

We are convinced that Your Excellency personally and the leaders of your Government sincerely seek a solution to this matter which will reduce the violence, stop the killings and contribute to communal harmony and the well-being of the people. Nevertheless, as your National Human Rights Commission has documented, some leaders of the security forces are either responsible for or have directly committed grave abuses of human rights in the past, adversely affecting the credibility of these forces. Part of the process of containing violence and restoring harmony in the Moluccas must certainly be to place such officials under charges and to try them for crimes they are alleged to have committed. To allow impunity for official actors to continue will tarnish the image of the Indonesian Government in the eyes of the international community. This will postpone the restoration of the process to encourage interfaith dialogue between the Islamic and Christian communities which is badly needed to restore normalcy and peace in the region.

We are deeply concerned at the loss of lives of both Muslims and Christians and express our profound sympathy for all who have suffered as a result of the continuing violence in the region. We want to assure the Indonesian people that the ecumenical community upholds them in prayer and is ready to render all possible assistance and to work with them for reconciliation with a view to restoring peace and harmony in the Moluccas region.

                                                                                                                                                  Georges Lemopoulos
                                                                                                                                                  Acting General Secretary