On Thursday, three Christian men in Indonesia, Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus Dasilva and Marinus Riwu, were shot to death by firing squad in Indonesia, on the charge that they were leaders of a violent attack on a Muslim school during a mini civil war provoked by Islamist extremists seeking to drive out, forcibly convert or subjugate Christians in Indonesia several years ago. Subsequent to the executions, a wave of violent and evidently lawless protests occurred on Sulawesi island.
Now, immediately, this sad situation brings to mind a warning and counsel in the writings of the Apostle Peter:
1PE 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? . . . .
1PE 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
Under normal circumstances, that would be enough to address the matter, apart from underscoring the lessons to be learned from a bad example. Sadly, and despite say the BBC's continual reference to “CHRISTIAN-Muslim violence” in Sulawesi over the years, there is reason to believe that it is seriously to be doubted that the above is all there is to the story.
For, as WorldNetDaily documents, there is serious reason to believe that the trials in question were unfair, were in the teeth of a one-sided amnesty for Muslims involved in the violence, and may well have constituted a gross miscarriage of justice in the teeth of exculpating evidence:
"Justice has once again been denied Indonesia's Christians," said Jeremy Sewall, a policy analyst for ICC. [International Christian Concern] "I am deeply saddened at this news and ask all concerned Christians to pray for the families of these men. This is a tragedy. This is not justice."
The men were sentenced to death during the conflict in Poso in 2000. As WorldNetDaily reported in 2001, more than 2,000 people died in three years of clashes in Central Sulawesi province before a peace agreement was reached between Muslim and Christian leaders . . . .
The execution was stayed last month [to facilitate a judicial review that should have taken up to a year] by the attorney general for Central Sulawesi, Mohammad Yahya Sibe, but the official suddenly was replaced, and the order was given to proceed.
The chief of police also suddenly was replaced and sent to another department . . . . Tibo, Riwu, and Da Silva were the only men charged in the Poso conflict.
"This is a glaring injustice and hints of massive cover-up by the Indonesian government," the group said in a statement, noting it has done its own investigation of the conflict.
"Entire Christian villages were attacked with government munitions and burned down using Indonesian government fuel trucks," ICC said. "Christian adults and children were beheaded. The Muslim community initiated the attacks and there was every indication that local Muslim government leaders were involved. Why were no Muslims ever charged in any of the attacks?"
ICC's president, Jeff King, said there are "so many Muslims in the Poso area with blood on their hands that the governor of Central Sulawesi, where Poso is located, recently conveyed to the community that in order to attain peace it was necessary to implement a 'general amnesty' for those implicated in the Poso case." . . . .
The three men claimed their convictions resulted from irregularities during their trial. They contended, for example, the judge in the case neglected to consider the testimony of 13 different witnesses – including the defendants themselves – that would have exonerated them. [Emphasis added. Read the rest of the account]
The telling part of the account is the just highlighted, as it reveals the underlying problem in the trial. Even though Indonesia is officially secular, in a province with the sort of current history we have just seen, the influence of Islamic thought and the history of dhimmitude and the assumption that the testimony of non-Muslims is inherently suspect are highly material:
"An Islamic state is essentially an ideological state, and is thus radically different from a national state." This statement made by Mawdudi lays the basic foundation for the political, economical, social, and religious system of all Islamic countries which impose the Islamic law. This ideological system intentionally discriminates between people according to their religious affiliations . . . . Zimmis cannot testify against Muslims. They can only testify against other ZimmisMusta'min. Their oaths are not considered valid in an Islamic court. According to the Shari`a, a Zimmi is not even qualified to be under oath. Muraghi states bluntly, "The testimony of a Zimmi is not accepted because Allah - may He be exalted - said: `God will not let the infidels (kafir) have an upper hand over the believers'." [Emphases in original.]
This of course sets the basis for massive discrimination and injustice, which is exactly what ICC complains of as a routine problem in Indonesia. Yet, despite the seriousness of this Apartheid-like status and the easy access to credible documentation [e.g. the well-researched works of Bat Ye'or], we simply hear little or nothing on this in the international media we usually access in our region, such as BBC, in its reporting on this and other similar cases and incidents. Again, we here see a now routine anti-Christian media bias at work.
But that is not all, for we must address the issue of the ethics of protest and the right to reformation and if necessary revolution in light of the rich Christian heritage on the matter.
For that, the first obvious point is to compare the repeated slave uprisings in the Caribbean, in which [especially in the late C18 and early C19] Christian slaves were involved. Often there was violence, including against innocent persons, which probably implicated Christians. Plainly, given the obviousness of Peter's notes above, Christians should not become criminals or even busybodies, so we cannot justify or excuse such plainly wrongful behaviour.
Howbeit, we must nor allow disgust over Christians who give in to the temptations of rage provoked by injustice, and miss the more basic point -- i.e. the other side of the story. For, by direct implication of Romans 13:4, when it calls the civil authority God's servant to do us good, who bears the sword to restrain or oppose evildoers, it immediately follows that such an authority oversteps his proper bounds if he establishes systematic injustice. As the US Declaration of Independence, 1776, eloquently summarises in light of a history of thought and events tracing back to the 1579 Calvinist work Vindicae Contra Tyrannos, and other major Christian and Christian-influenced works on the subject:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
In short, tyranny by usurpation, corruption or invasion [or however otherwise occasioned] plainly delegitimises claims to civil authority. Thus, an oppressed people have an inherent right of protest and appropriate action to reform or if necessary replace such tyrannical government [which BTW is a major reason for the institution of peaceful elections]. Further to this, as proved to be the crucial element in the ending of slavery in the Caribbean, Christian action to inform the wider public of the facts of oppression and injustice, joined to calls for reform, are a critical strategy that can avert resort to violent revolution.
Unfortunately, history is also replete with cases where oppressive elites refused to listen to calls for reform, and precipitated revolutions or rebellions. Nor is resistance to armed attacks to be regarded as unjustified rebellion, but as self-defence. Also, in several key cases, armed rebellion in the face of insistent oppression has opened the door to liberation and reformation, e.g. the failed sit-down strike for pay that turned into the Baptist War slave rebellion in Jamaica in 1831/2, played a key role in precipitating the decision to end the institution, especially when it became public knowledge that the chapels of the dissenters had been burned by those acting for the colonial authorities, and when it was shown that the same authorities tried to hang the dissenter missionaries as fomenters of rebellion.
So, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater in this case. We who are free should now rise up to document the oppression and injustice in Indonesia [and elsewhere in that part of the world influenced by the same sort of thought and history], and call and act for reformation -- not just in Indonesia but in our media and the international institutions that were quick [and correct!] to oppose apartheid but have so far been too often silent in the face of dhimmitude. END
UPDATE: Edited the last sentence for clarity. [I realised, on looking back, that it could have been open to a very different interpretation than I intended!]