Indonesia Violence: 'Something Radically Wrong'

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CIKEUSIK, Indonesia -- Christians often face persecution in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. But other Muslims have also been attacked by radical Islamists in their own country.

In February, religious fanaticism boiled over in the small village of Cikeusik. A mob of more than 1,000 Muslim hardliners attacked 17 members of a small Islamic sect known as the Ahmadiyah.

Wielding machetes, and shouting "Kafir!" - the Arabic word for infidel - they threw rocks at the Ahmadis and mercilessly clubbed three of them to death.

Many Muslims consider the Ahmadis to be infidels because they do not accept Mohammed as the final prophet. Instead, Ahmadis embrace their Hindu founder, Ghulam Ahmad as savior and messiah.

After the ferocious attack, the Ahmadis abandoned their homes and none of them dared set foot in Cikeusik again.

"We were traumatized when they attacked the house of the Ahmadis who lived right next door. But I'm glad they're gone," said Wildan bin Satim, a former neighbor of an Ahmadi family.

"They have a different belief. They don't pray with us in the mosque," he said. "They are a cult and we don't want them in our village."

Twelve men who were part of the brutal murders are now back in the village after serving just five months in prison.

This incident has once again raised questions on the intolerance of this country towards religious minorities.

One Victim's Story

Deden Sudjana, a victim of the sectarian violence, almost lost his arm defending himself from a machete attack.

As the security officer for the Ahmadiyah, he was trying to peacefully negotiate with the police before the attacks ensued.

Sudjana was charged with disobeying the police and inciting violence. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

The Islamists responsible for murdering the Ahmadis received only three to five months behind bars.

Sudjana is angry that his attackers are free and have even been given a hero's welcome home while he's still in jail.

His lawyers say he can an appeal his conviction, but Sudjana would rather not try.

"Deden is depressed. He said that he cannot stand prison life and so he will not make an appeal," Andi Mutaqqien, his attorney, said.

"Because in this country, most of the time when the case involves religious minorities, the attackers -- mostly Muslim hardliners -- get less of a sentence than the victims," he said.

"And when the victims make an appeal, there's the danger of getting a longer prison term," he noted.

"It is scary for me to see Muslims kill fellow Muslims. I believe all religions come with peace; They teach about peace and how to help others," Firdaus Mubarik, an Ahmadiyah spokesperon, told CBN News.

"Like our fellow Indonesians, we fought for the independence of this country. But until now, we are still fighting for our freedom," Mubarik added. "I hope this government will protect the freedom of their people including the Ahmadis."

'As If They Are Not Human'

Christian churches are also targeted by Muslim hardliners. In recent years, Christian churches have been closed and Christian schools and students attacked.

Despite this persecution, government officials remain silent.

"It will condemn violence in generic terms. But it won't urge the government to take a stand in protection of Indonesian citizens whatever their beliefs," Sydney Jones, director of the International Crisis Group, said.

"And it won't take a stand in support of constitutionally protective freedom of religion," Jones said.

"These are not just pre-meditated murders. These are lynch mobs or individuals taking stones and clubs, smashing the skulls until these people were dead," he explained.

"It's as though these people were no longer human beings on either side," he said. "The people they were targeting, they didn't see as human beings any longer and when a society comes to that point there's something radically wrong."

One of those brutally killed in the attack was Mubarik's friend, Chandra. Chandra and his wife waited for a long time for their first child, but sadly he was killed just weeks before their child was born.

Mubarik is hoping that justice will be served for Chandra and his son and for all the other victims, even if it takes a whole generation.

*Original broadcast Sept. 16, 2011. 

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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