Meanwhile, off in the hinterlands of eastern Indo.....

This is another one by our very own member, Fabio Scarpello :


Jakarta, 10 Oct. (AKI) - The situation in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi remains tense after two Muslims were killed following the execution of three Christians by a police firing squad in September. The three were convicted of masterminding a series of attacks by a Christan mob on the Muslim community in the province in 2000 which killed more than 200 people.

"The situation is not yet calm," Mona Saroinsong, coordinator at the Crisis Centre for synagogues and churches in North and Central Sulawesi told Adnkronos International (AKI). "The two communities [Christians and Muslims] are still in dispute," she said.

Sulawesi province has a long history of violence between Muslim and Christians, who are numerically almost equal. Over 1,000 people were killed in religious clashes between 2000 and 2001. A peace deal was signed in the South Sulawesi town of Malino in December 2001, following talks facilitated by then-coordinating minister for people's welfare, Jusuf Kalla.

"In the last few weeks there have been isolated clashes but, luckily, no mass-attacks by one community on another," Saroinsong told AKI.

However Adnan Arsal, one of the local Muslim leaders, described how one incident came close to becoming a mass clash between the two religious communities.

"It happened after a bomb exploded in Kawua village, a few days ago," Adnan Arsal told AKI. "The police arrived to investigate but when a group of Christians started to throw stones at them, about 1000 Muslims intervened to protect them," he said.

"Luckily the military kept the Christians on one side and there was no violence," he said.

The bomb in Kawua was one of five explosions in the province since 30 September.

The bombs are part of a wave of violence that included the killing of two Muslims, by a group of Christians, and followed the execution of Fabianus Tibo, Marinus Riwu, and Dominggus da Silva, by police firing squad on 22 September.

The three Catholic men were convicted of masterminding a series of attacks by a Christan mob on the Muslim community in the Central Sulawesi district of Poso in 2000 which killed more than 200 people. Only a handful of Muslims were convicted in the violence, all for 15 years in prison or less. The Christian community had contested the conviction and Pope Benedict XVI had also pleaded for clemency for the three men.

Adnan Arsal said that Muslims in the province had complete faith in the security forces and would not attack. At the same time, the Muslim leader - who was involved in the 2001 peace agreement - raised the possibility that the violence was being instigated from external forces.

"I am worried that outsiders could be bent on provoking us," he said.

According to the think-tank, the International Crisis Group, Central Sulawesi is one of the areas in Indonesia where groups linked to the regional terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah, are trying to foment sectarian violence with the intension of creating hate.

"These people could plant bombs here and after, Christians and Muslims blame each other," said Adnan Arsal.

In the meantime, Saroinsong has called on the government to do more.

"Its [the government] main mistake has been that of not fully involving the community. Christians and Muslims are ready to talk even more. The government has to get involved and lead a constant reconciliation program," she said.