Balinese face trauma, even starvation

AMS Staff

Protestant Church used funds raised on Kuta tourist strip to feed orphans

- “It looked like a war zone, with people lying around on stretchers with bloodstained sheets”
- A conspiracy of silence
- Why are Christians being persecuted in Indonesia?

A Sydney Anglican minister and his wife, who have long supported the Bali Protestant church fear it will be the local Balinese community that will suffer most in the long term, as it deals with its own large numbers of dead, and then faces economic ruin as tourists pull out.

The news of the bomb attack at Kuta Beach Bali has devastated Mr Scarcella, associate minister of Sylvania Anglican Parish and his wife Sue. Sue is a fluent speaker of Indonesian and an expert in Balinese culture.

Together they have been to Bali many times over the last 25 years, for the last seven years taking with them aid to help local orphanages and pastors’ families.

“There will be massive unemployment in the south of Bali, and this will filter through even to the villages, many of which supply handicrafts to the tourist centres. Prices of basic foodstuffs will rise,and we will see many families suffering,” said Mr Scarcella.

“We have been helping the orphanage system of the Bali Protestant church for a long while, and have seen an increasing number of children enter it for economic reasons. No doubt, the bombing will heighten this, but the church, which has holdings on the tourist strip to support its orphanages and other welfare schemes, may not have the money to assist.

Rocco and Sue have been collecting supplies for the orphanages for some months now, and will get these school needs,clothes and toys there as soon as they can get into Bali again, but both would like readers to know that there is an online way to support the Balinese people on their website.

“Anyone can donate to one of several registered Balinese charities by going to [url=][/url] and,” said Mr Scarcella.

“We have been in touch with the leaders of the Bali Protestant church and they are bracing themselves for the economic worst. Knowing the long and fond relationship between our two cultures, we feel that Australians, particularly in Sydney, will want to reach out and help.”

Sue Scarcella who first went to Bali in 1975 as a university student studying Indonesian, remembers the practical care of the Balinese towards the young tourists of the 70’s.

“We used to stay in small homestays in the very area which has been devastated by the bomb blast. No doubt many of those I knew in those days have been killed. And they were so kind to us then. I remember the lady of one house telling me that even though the government told the owners to boil water for three minutes so that the tourists would not get “bali belly”, she boiled hers for ten minutes, just to make sure no one got sick in her house.”

“I remember local doctors treating backpackers for nothing in those days.It was just their nature to do so, and nothing much has changed for them. The local Balinese of the Kuta area are still thoughtful, kind and helpful, as can be seen in the way they rallied to help the injured, driving them to hospitals and medical centres without hesitation.”

If you have other questions about helping the Balinese, you can ring the Scarcellas on 9522 7625.


“It looked like a war zone, with people lying around on stretchers with bloodstained sheets”

Local Christian on scene to help victims

Among the first to arrive at the Sari Club in the horrific moments after the bomb blast was Ado, a youth worker in Bali.

Ado had rushed into Kuta to find some young Australians he knew. His friends had been inside the Sari Club at the time of the blast, but miraculously Ado said, all had survived..

“The group of six young guys were deeply traumatized after witnessing the horror of many people killed inside the building as they made their escape over a back fence. The stories of their escape were both heroic and depressing and they were all claiming a divine miracle for their safety. Praise God for his intervention in their lives,” Ado said.

“From Kuta, we rushed to Sanglah hospital in Denpasar after receiving a call from the Australian consulate that they needed volunteer helpers. The sight that greeted me was indescribable. Rooms packed with severely injured victims, corpses being identified and distressed people running around looking for their loved ones. Thankfully, the Australian Air Force turned up and took control of the situation, stabilising patients, and creating an atmosphere of calmness and control.

Ado and a colleague helped by keeping patients cool, translating for doctors, moving patients or just offering counsel for those who wanted to share their experience.

“I spent most of the day looking after a young grom [surfer] from Maroubra who had badly lacerated legs. His mother was also with him during the blast, but has not been identified in any of the other hospitals. I accompanied him all the way to the airport where the Air Force had set up a temporary hospital on the tarmac. It looked like a warzone with people lying around on stretchers with bloodstained sheets, drips hanging above, Indonesian military on guard, and a Hercules waiting to depart.

“One RAAF worker even commented to me that despite all her training, she was never prepared to encounter such a scene.

“I was then asked to operate an oxygen support system on a very unstable patient, who was struggling to stay alive. The realisation of life’s fragility was so evident as I sat there pumping oxygen into this stranger’s lungs,” he said.

Ado stayed until 1am, when the last of the patients waiting at the airport had been evacuated to Darwin.

He thanked Australian Christians for their prayers. “It has been an emotionally and physically straining time for us, but through it all, I have seen the grace of God manifest in so many ways. Truly God is in control. Above all, lets keep praying for God’s divine intervention, miraculous power, sustaining strength for the workers and that through it all, His light will penetrate the darkness that fills this place.”


A conspiracy of silence

In Indonesia, up to 10,000 Christians have been killed and 60,000 have been forced from their homes by Islamic jihad warriors. But Australian media have yet to report the full story.

by Andrew Mitchell

The bombing of the nightclubs in Kuta, Bali has brought intense grief and loss to many Australians. It is almost inconceivable to us that people could commit such a murderous act, but we need to recognise that this was not an isolated event.

At the same time as the Bali explosions, another bomb exploded in Manado, a Christian city in North Sulawesi. In fact Christian communities in Indonesia have been terrorised continuously since 1999. Their churches have been bombed, their homes looted and burnt, they have been dispossessed of their homelands

Some of the horrors Indonesian Christians have reported are unspeakable. Some have been ritually dismembered in front of their families, and many have been forced to convert to Islam, which involves circumcision for both men and women.

Between five and ten thousand Christians have died and there are around 60,000 refugees from Christian communities internally displaced in Indonesia. Little of this has been reported in the Australian media.

My parish - Christ Church, Gladesville - has shared with Christian refugees in Indonesia through friends in Monado. This has been a safe city to which many of the displaced have fled. I had only been back a day from a visit to Bali, Manado and Makassar in Indonesia, when the Bali bombings occurred.

As Australian Christians, enjoying such security and wealth, we must share in the sufferings of our neighbouring brothers and sisters. We need to understand why Christians in Indonesia are being persecuted and how we can help.

In Manado in northern Sulewesi, a disused warehouse complex had become home for thousands of refugees. They fled from Ternate when Islamic forces destroyed their homes and churches. Those who did not escape were slaughtered or forced to convert.

Three years on, nearly 4,000 people remain in this complex of makeshift rooms partitioned off by plastic ground sheets and accommodating whole families.

I asked Francis, a leader of these Ternate refugees, if he will return home.

“No, I don’t trust the government to protect us,” he said. “I trust in Jesus as much as ever but my attitude to the government and Muslims has changed.”

The Poso region is the current focus of conflict.

Thousands of people have been chased inland from their homes. There are an estimated 50,000 refugees in this area and 12,500 in one refugee camp.

I met a young man named Buntu. He used to work for the government in Poso. Buntu’s English is excellent and he told me in chilling detail how one night he narrowly escaped with his life during a riot. A Muslim friend helped him escape through the crowds.

Buntu has moved to Makassar to find work and told me that because the Lord had spared him he wanted to commit his life to the service of God. He asked me whether there are Bible colleges in Australia offering scholarships to train.

The care of those affected by the conflict falls mainly on the Church. They appear well organised, with a crisis team made up of representatives from the various denominations.

The Christian church I visited in Monado was full of life. Virtually everyone goes to church but this isn’t a nominal Christianity. Meetings are focused on Bible teaching. They are used to providing for the social needs in their community and so naturally extend their concern to the refugees.

However they are facing various challenges from within.  Chief of these is a growing liberalism in their theological college. They have wonderful reformed heritage but of late this has been undermined because of the influence of the European church on their leadership.

They also face ongoing pressure from the Muslim majority that shows no sign of abating. It seems only a matter of time before the current cities of refuge are themselves under siege.


Why are Christians being persecuted in Indonesia?

1. Javanese empire building: The Indonesian Archipelago comprises 17,000 islands with many different indigenous people groups. Its existence as a nation is the result of Dutch colonial rule giving way to an independent nation, with its power base in Java. Java comprises only seven per cent of the land mass and is not rich in resources but has by far the biggest population. The last 50 years has seen a policy of ‘re-population’ from Java to the outlying provinces, which has seen most of them brought under Javanese control.

2. The stigma of colonial rule: Colonial rule in Indonesia was often oppressive and exploitative. Most people do not have a high regard for Europeans and unfortunately Christianity is identified with this sad history.

3. Envy: There is a sense of envy among Muslims as they witness the prosperity of others, particularly the Chinese Christians. This has fuelled the violence at times.

4. Extremist Islamic groups: The end of the Suharto era in 1999 saw Islamic extremist groups exerting influence nationally.  A key group - with 10,000 fighters - has been Laskar Jihad, or ‘Holy War Warriors’. It was founded in 2000 by Jafar Umar Thalib, who studied in Pakistan and fought alongside the Mujihadeen in Afghanistan. Its strategy has been to gain Islamic control of non-Muslim provinces through violence - a policy reflected in the bombings in Hindu Bali and Christian Monado. Yet, immediately after the bombings, Laskar Jihad claimed it was disbanding.

5. The military: Military leaders often provoke conflict to further business interests in the areas they are operating. It is also clear that strong links exist between the military and groups like Laskar Jihad. Ja’far Umar Thalib, head of the Laskar Jihad, has boasted of his relationship with the Indonesian military, even claiming in 2000 to have a hotline to Admiral Widodo. Military forces have been known to withdraw without warning immediately before a Jihad attack. In the Poso region where the latest violence has occurred Laskar Jihad has operated with impunity. The only person in jail is Rev Damanik, leader of the Christian community, who urged restraint on Christians while criticising the authorities for not acting against the likes of Laskar Jihad.

6. Revenge: Christian communities are not without blame. Some groups have inflamed the situation and Muslims have also been killed in these conflicts. However, the Christian communities are not armed or reinforced from outside.