Bishop speaks out after beheading of three schoolgirls

Politics - not religion - lies behind last weekend's savage killing of three girls in Indonesia, according to the local bishop.

CLICK HERESpeaking just days after the children's murder in the town of Poso, Bishop Joseph Suwatan insisted that investigations were now pointing the finger of blame at political extremists wanting to provoke both Muslim and Christian communities.

In an interview given to the news service of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishop of Manado diocese confirmed that the three girls were Christian (Protestant), but stressed that the decapitated bodies were split up with one head being placed in a Muslim part of town, another in the Christian area. Reports say a third head was discovered near the local police station.

The bishop told Aid to the Church in Need that he is joining forces with his Muslim counterparts in a bid to calm the people who were still in shock after the killings, which took place last Saturday.

"What has happened does not put us more in danger," he said. "The Muslims are just as unhappy about the deaths as we are. It was an act of provocation by a third party that is playing with us, trying to make us react."

The bishop set out to counter reports of impending conflict between Muslims and Christians in his part of Indonesia, saying both communities had now stopped the violence which engulfed the area until 2001.

According to some reports, after the conflict erupted in Poso in December 1998, nearly 100,000 people fled their homes and scores of churches and mosques were torched, leaving some describing the district's capital as a 'dead city'.

"What I am keen to convey is that we are not in a tense situation - we are not facing the onset of war."

He stressed last month's election of a Christian to head up local government in Poso, a man whose running mate was a Muslim.

He said people were unlikely to "over-react" to the deaths because acts of terrorism were not uncommon in Indonesia.

The bishop went on to praise Pope Benedict XVI, who gave his reaction to "the painful news of the barbaric killings" and sent a message of condolence to the Vatican Embassy in Jakarta to be passed on to the families of the youngsters.

Indonesia: Bishop speaks out after beheading of three schoolgirls (Aid to the Church in Need 3/11/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Aid to the Church in Need
Diocese of Manado (catholic-hierarchy.org)

Pope close to the families of beheaded Indonesian girls (CathNews 31/10/05)

Indonesia: Beheading Barbarity (Vatican Radio English Features 3/11/05, audio - requires Real Player)
Poso: Police search for teenagers' killers (AsiaNews.it 1/11/05)

4 Nov 2005