Indonesian Christians fear Philippine violence spillover

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia

Jakarta, May 31, 2017: Christians in Sulawesi, north Indonesia are worried about the possibility Islamist militants might flee to their area after the Philippine army launched a crackdown in nearby Mindanao.

Father Steven Lalu, head of communications for Manado Diocese, that covers Sulawesi, said local Catholics are deeply concerned following jihadist violence in the Philippines over the last week. “The close proximity to the Philippines has raised anxiety,” he said on May 30.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao after gunmen claiming to have links with the so-called Islamic-State stormed Marawi City on May 23. State security forces continued to battle the jihadists, known as the Maute group, on May 29 displacing thousands.

Father Lalu said the diocese has urged locals to look out for militants infiltrating their area. “We asked people to look out for people who are not known entering the community,” he said.

“The church always coordinates with security [forces],” he added.

Boy Pangemanan, a member the parish council of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Pineleng, Manado said they are being extra vigilant. “Do not let these groups come and harm us,” he said.

Pangemanan said they must work with the other religious groups to maintain security. “Terrorist are the enemy of all people from all religious backgrounds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reverend Emmy Situmorang Milos from the Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa said, “We always work with security officers to check on new and suspicious looking people.”

Tightened Security

The Indonesian government says it has tightened security to tackle the possibility of the militants escaping there.

On May 28, Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs Wiranto told reporters that the government had deployed military and police personnel to secure the border, especially around the waters of Sulu Island in the southern Philippines.

He also said the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines are committed to maintaining the border area with maritime patrols.

Local newspaper Manado Post on May 30 reported that North Sulawesi Police Chief, Bambang Waskito mobilized hundreds of personnel to guard border areas.

“People need not worry. The police and military will continue to improve patrols,” Waskito said.

“We continue to monitor the progress of this radical group. We hope all people will participate in our efforts and report anything suspicious,” he added.

The Indonesian navy also deployed a warship to patrol waters near the Philippines.

Suselo, the military commander in Manado, said that they will check every ship sailing in the border area.

– ucan

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