SANTA ANA, CA Five Islamic militants were arrested May 5 for the beheading of three Indonesian schoolgirls in Poso, on the island of Sulawesi, in October 2005, according to Compass Direct. Two additional suspects have not yet been publicly identified, reported Compass.
Two of the arrested men were involved in the murders," national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam told reporters. "Another was detained for carrying ammunition, while the other two were arrested as accessories to the crimes."
The five suspects, arrested in Tolitoli regency, Central Sulawesi, were identified by The Jakarta Post as Apriyantono, alias Irwan; Arman, alias Haris; Asrudin, Nano and Abdul Muis. According to Compass, some Indonesians use only a single name.
According to officials, the men are suspected of attacking Theresia Morangke, 15; Alfita Poliwo, 17; Yarni Sambue, 15; and Noviana Malewa, 15 early in the morning as they walked to a Christian school in Poso district. The first three girls were beheaded; Malewa received serious injuries to her face and neck but survived the attack.
The sole survivor later described the attackers as six men wearing black shirts and masks, and said one of the men carried a two-way radio, according to Compass.
The men are also suspects in other violent attacks on Christians, including the murder of the Rev. Susianty Tinulele, 26, who was shot at the Effatah Church in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on July 18, 2004 by a gunman who entered the church wearing a mask. Four teen-agers sitting outside the church were also injured in the attack, according to Compass.
The attacks indicate an escalation of persecution in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, at 172 million. With a total Christian population of 34 people, Indonesian media have reported that more than 150 churches have been destroyed or closed down in Jakarta and throughout the island of Java in recent years.
Christian workers maintain that the increase of terrorism, intimidation and persecution is part of the fundamental Muslims' goal to implement Shariah Lawstrict Muslim lawthroughout Indonesia.
AP has reported about a bill proposed by lawmakers on the tsunami-ravaged Indonesian province of Aceh, which would impose Shariah on all non-Muslims, the military and police, a local law enforcement official said.
Shariah took effect last year in Aceh, a predominantly Muslim region on the northernmost tip of Sumatra island. It banned drinking, gambling, adultery and other behavior deemed immoral under Islam. But it had only applied to Muslims.
The latest bill, submitted to the national parliament for debate, is expected by many to be adopted by the 550-seat house by the summer after facing initial resistance.
Some Christians in Indonesia claim that the Christian church is growing rapidly and is actually 23 percent of the population and not the reported 12 percent. However, that 23 percent has been used by Muslim fundamentalists to claim that Christianity is growing too fast and must be resisted with force.
"The growing persecution of Christians in Indonesia in alarming," Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller said in a news release. "The arrests in the beheadings of these innocent Christian girls are a step in the right direction. But more must be done to protect Christians and assure their basic freedoms, including their right to worship the one, true God."
For more information, visit opendoorsusa.org.