11 December, 2008

Indonesia - Muslims burn Christian church

Violence ensued when Muslims accused a teacher of blasphemy. Police attempted to restore order in the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia, while stores and offices are closed.

A group of 500 Muslims wreaked havoc and spread panic in Masohi, in the Moluccan Islands, during clashes with police and local Christians. As a result, 45 homes, a church and a village hall were set alight. The spark that set off the violence is an in incident in which a teacher allegedly insulted Islam in front of some Muslim students.

Once the story spread, the local Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) mobilised, rallying some 500 people in front of the Central Maluku Education Agency. For more than an hour they protested, accusing the teacher of blasphemy and calling for his dismissal. Afterwards, the protesters marched to police headquarters near the school. When they were told that the police chief was out of town, most of the demonstrators left but a group remained to confront the police. The violence spread and resulted in the burning of Christian homes and a church.

News about the incident in Masohi spread across Seram Island and rekindled memories of the Moluccan War of 1999-2000 when Muslims and Christians clashed, with thousands of deaths. Police are on a heightened state of alert while stores and offices are closed as a precautionary measure. Law enforcement authorities have identified those responsible for the clashes. For his part the teacher who sparked the incident is currently in police custody.



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