50,000 Christians Driven From
Homes On Indonesian Island

ROME (AFP) - Muslim paramilitary groups have driven more than 50,000 Christian villagers from their homes on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a local Catholic bishop said in a report from the island published by the Vatican's Fides news agency Saturday.
The report said the villagers had fled their homes, mostly near the town of Poso in the centre of the island, after being attacked by paramilitaries equipped with firearms, grenades and even bulldozers.
Monsignor Josef Suwatan, the bishop of the town of Manado in northern Sulawesi, was appealing to the Indonesian authorities to send security forces to the region immediately, Fides said.
The people had been forced to flee because "their houses were burned down and the police arrived too late," he was quoted as saying.
He said many of the villagers were sheltering in public buildings and churches.
Fides said another local church official had accused the Indonesian authorities of tolerating the attacks.
The United Nations has expressed concern about violence in the centre of Sulawesi, a large island in the north of the archipelagic country, formerly known as Celebes.
Poso has been the scene of almost two years of sectarian fighting which has left more than 300 people dead.
On Tuesday Michael Elmquist, deputy United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, said up to 7,000 members of Laskar Jihad -- a Java-based armed Islamic group which has waged a "jihad" (holy war) against Christians in the Malukus -- may have moved to Poso to continue their battle.
Copyright © 2001 AFP

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