Catholics and Protestants Appeal for Peace in Indonesia

MEDAN, Indonesia, DEC. 18, 2000 (

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Catholic and Protestant churches in the Archdiocese of Medan are redoubling their calls for peace this Christmas in this troubled area on the island of Sumatra.

Last month was marked by attacks on buildings and religious gatherings. In mid-November there was a protest march, in which Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and local Buddhist representatives participated.

Father Heribertus Kartono of the Holy Cross Congregation, president of the archdiocesan deanery, said the attacks seemed to be geared to setting the different religious confessions against one another. However, «it is very difficult to pit believers against one another, because the population is closely tied to the clan, which goes beyond membership in different religions,» the priest said.

In early December, the Indonesia government accepted the introduction of Islamic law in Aceh province, on the northern tip of Sumatra, about 1,000 miles northwest of Jakarta, in an effort to placate Muslim fundamentalists.

The Archdiocese of Medan has 13 million inhabitants, 495,000 (3%) of whom are Catholics, distributed in 42 parishes. Muslims constitute 63% of the population; the rest are divided among Protestants, Buddhists and Hindus.

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