Papal Sympathy for "Barbarous Killing" of 3 Girls

Indonesians Murdered While on Their Way to School

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2005 ( Benedict XVI expressed his sympathy to the families of three Indonesian girls who were decapitated Saturday while on their way to school.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls issued a statement today to express the Pope’s grief as soon as “he learned of the barbarous killing.”

According to the spokesman, “The Holy Father has asked the bishop of Manado, Monsignor Joseph Theodorus Suwatan, to present his heartfelt sympathy to the victims’ families and to the diocesan community, assuring them that he raises fervent prayers to the Lord for the return of peace among those peoples.”

Bishop Suwatan, 65, told the Missionary Service News Agency: “We are faced with a strategy of terror that wants to shock the population and make them feel insecure, precisely when relations between the Christian and Muslim communities have already been pacified.”

The students of a Christian school were decapitated in the village of Poso, in the central region of the island of Sulawesi, scene of a conflict in 2000-2001 between Muslims and Christians that left about 1,000 dead.

A fourth girl, who was able to flee, told police that two men wearing helmets attacked the girls with large machetes.

According to Bishop Suwatan, the situation has been normalizing in recent years, despite periodic outbreaks of violence.

Among these were the attacks on Protestant churches in December 2004, and the May 28 bombings in the mostly Christian city of Tentena, which killed 22.

“Many are convinced,” said the bishop, “that behind this violence is someone foreign to the local communities, wishing to stir hatred.”

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