|Forgiveness in Indonesia: A Family’s Response to Martyrdom
29 November 2005
Three Christian families are burying their daughters; schoolgirls killed in a vicious attack as they traveled to school. The families of the murdered girls are still in shock, and they are grieving over the deaths of their children. Not only because they were too young to die—Alfita was 19, Teressia was 18, and Yarni was15—but because of the horrible way they were murdered. Their bodies were found headless in a coconut field, their heads were found in different parts of Poso, wrapped in black plastic bags.
I followed the route that Alfita, Teressia, Yarni and Ida took everyday on their way to school, at 6:30 in the morning. But on October 29, a group of unidentified men wearing masks brutally murdered these girls.
As the families grieve, there is again a growing concern. Could there be a resurgence of the old religious conflict between Muslims and Christians here in Poso?
Nursalem Mawela is the father of the only survivor of this brutal attack. In an exclusive television interview, Mawela told CBN News he is thankful his daughter Noviana survived the assault. Noviana was hacked on the face, but was able to escape.
Mawela believes the girls were targeted for attack because they didn’t keep Idul Fitre, an important Muslim holiday signifying the end of Ramadan. He said, "The girls must have offended the Muslim extremists, because in this season of Ramadan, there should be no school. But the Christian school is open."
Moreover, the three victim girls were very active Christian leaders in school prayer meetings and church.
Mastin Mokoagow is Pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Zion. She says the deaths of Alfita, Teressia, and Yarni are not in vain. She calls them ‘martyrs’ because their deaths have brought unity to the Christian churches in Poso and their lives encouraged the Christians to be strong in the faith.
Pastor Mastin said, “We hope peace will come to Poso. Because of the three girls who were martyred we are challenged! And our faith is put to a test like gold. But we become strong because of their example.”
Community leader John Mandagi believes the violent incidents in Poso are politically motivated. Mandagi explained, "The Christians and the National Muslims now have a harmonious relationship. There is a third party—the terrorist group—that is being used by corrupt politicians. They try to provoke both the Christians and Muslims to fight. But this will not happen again."
Several big projects are now underway in Poso including the construction of an electrical plant, oil refinery, and a new airport. The area is also rich in natural resources such as ebony and minerals. Some analysts say corrupt officials want to destabilize the region so they can seize control of these huge investments.
The people are saddened that money and greed have cost the lives of precious, innocent young women.
Alfita wanted to become a pastor. She was just five months away from high school graduation. Though she is no longer with them, Alfita's friends continue to sing her favorite worship song—a song they say she may be singing now in Heaven.
Difficult as it is, Yarni's father and the parents of Alfita and Teressia have released their anger and given forgiveness to the murderers of their daughters. They believe it is God who will judge them.
Markus Sambuwe is the father of one of the victims. He told us, " I was really angry. But the Holy Spirit touched my heart and changed me. I forgive them just as Jesus has forgiven my sins."
Several suspects have been arrested in the Christian school girl beheadings, but just a week after those brutal murders, two other Christian girls were shot by snipers.
Tensions remain high here in Poso. But, so far, Christians are remaining true to their faith. They're responding to these violent tragedies in a spirit of forgiveness and restraint, by ‘turning the other cheek.’
Joining us now is CBN News producer Lucille Talusan, who went with Jay Esteban to Poso.
George Thomas: Lucille, how are the families of these murdered girls coping with the tragedy?
Lucille Talusan: Okay, George. You know the families are still mourning. But what’s so amazing is how easily they can release forgiveness to the murderers of these children. And what is, I saw the glow in their faces, they have the peace and the joy of God. And I think this is what persecution and so much suffering has done for them—and that is, to be strong in the faith, to be stronger, and that is what matters to them. And they know that the deaths of their children are not in vain.
By Jay Esteban
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