Indonesia, World Vision AIDS Forum & Burnham Update

Indonesia, World Vision AIDS Forum & Burnham Update

In Today's Edition:
  • Indonesia: Government Reins in Laskar Jihad
  • World Vision Forum To Focus On Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic
  • Year in Captivity Takes Toll on Burnhams
  • Other Headlines at a Glance

Indonesia: Government Reins in Laskar Jihad ... From the Missions Insider Report by Christian Aid -- In a shocking turn of events, the radical Laskar Jihad has been banned from the Moluccas and its combative leader placed under arrest. Jafar Umar Thalib, head of the militant Laskar Jihad, was arrested and brought in for questioning by the Indonesia National Police when he landed at Surabaya on his way back to Jakarta from Ambon on May 4. He was charged with inciting Muslims to violence in the attack on Soya village, a 20-minute drive from Ambon City, April 28 in which 14 people were killed, about 30 homes of Christians burned, and the Soya Protestant church burned for the second time.

The violence in the Moluccas that has claimed 9000 lives and left 700,000 homeless since 1999 is not solely the result of local inter-religious violence. Outsiders are accused of fomenting the trouble. A representative of the local council of bishops told the Jakarta Post that the perpetrators of the April 28 attack "didn't use the local language, and that no Ambonese would have the capability of destroying a village in such a short time."

The main outside group fomenting trouble in the Moluccas is said to be the Jakarta based Laskar Jihad that declared war on Christians in the Moluccas in April 2000 and up until now moved throughout the region with impunity.

Thankfully for Christians, the government has now banned the Laskar Jihad from the Moluccas, although how the government will oversee its evacuation is another matter. It is estimated to have about 9,000 members, but no one knows how much actual support it has among Moluccan Muslims.

Local Christians and Muslims signed the Malino II peace accord brokered by the government on February 12, but Thalib denounced it. The accord called for Muslims and Christians to turn in their arms, and Christians of Soya village were among those that did that. But Thalib reportedly urged a crowd of several thousand at the Alfatah Mosque in Ambon April 26 to take up "guns and spears and daggers" and fight the Christians. The attack on Soya came about 36 hours later.

Then in a radio speech broadcast May 1-3 he told Maluku Muslims to "write out their wills...get out all your weapons...[and] fight against them [the Christians] to the last drop of blood."

Some Muslim groups are protesting Thalib's detention, and are insisting that the Christian separatist movements, the FKM (Maluku Sovereignty Front) and the South Maluku Republic (RMS), first be disbanded. In addition, Vice President Hamaz Haz's visit to Thalib in prison lent him more legitimacy than he deserves and is causing a serious breach with President Magawati Sukarnoputri.

Meanwhile Christian Aid is assisting some of the hundreds of thousands of Christians displaced from their homes by the Moluccan violence by helping to provide food, clothing, medical help and simple family shelters. For more information, visit

World Vision Forum To Focus On Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic ... Leading Christian HIV/AIDs experts from around the world will gather on May 17 and 18 in New York to examine the emerging role the Christian community in the United States must play in helping to alleviate the growing AIDS pandemic sweeping across the African continent and now into Asia.

"The time has come to challenge America's Christian community to take a leadership role in the battle against the most devastating disease of our time," said Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. "With 40 million people struggling with HIV/AIDS around the world and the situation growing worse in many emerging countries, it's time the world Christian Community rose to the challenge."

The World Vision Forum 2002 will feature presentations from physicians, clergy, program specialists and others who have been on the frontlines in the global battle against HIV/AIDS, focusing on the societal impact of millions of young Africans and Asians growing up behind a generation dying of AIDS. The venue will focus on the role education in Africa and Asia can play in leveling the playing field and empowering women to make potentially lifesaving choices as it pertains to their sexual and reproductive practices.

Year in Captivity Takes Toll on Burnhams ... Recent unconfirmed reports indicate that, after nearly a year in captivity, kidnapped New Tribes Missions (NTM) missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham are not well. According to a press release, NTM has received reports that Martin is suffering from, or has recently suffered from, malaria. Gracia is said to be seriously ill from an infection. It is even being reported that the kidnappers are considering releasing Gracia, lest she die. However, like many reports over the last year, none of this can be confirmed.

New Tribes Mission's Crisis Teams in Manila and the USA are continuing to work around the clock to track down reliable information about the Martin and Gracia. Whether the reports are true or not, almost a year of captivity has taken a toll on the couple's health. They have suffered from malnutrition sores on their feet and mouths, malaria and wounds. This ordeal has also taken an emotional toll on them and their families.

Martin, 42, and Gracia, 43, from Kansas, were kidnapped on May 27, 2001, by the Abu Sayyaf Group from a resort off the island of Palawan in the Philippines. Martin grew up in the Philippines, where his parents have been missionaries for more than 32 years. The Burnhams have been members of NTM since 1985.

Other Headlines at a Glance: