Future unclear in wake of beheading sentences.

By March 26, 2007

Indonesia
(MNN) — Three Islamic militants have been found guilty in three Christian
schoolgirl beheadings in 2005.

The accused mastermind, 34-year old Hasanuddin, received 20 years
for his part in the attack, and co-conspirators Lilik Purnomo, 28, and Irwanto Irano,
29, each got 14 years.

The grisly murders took place in Poso,
Indonesia and fanned
Muslim-Christian tensions in the Sulawesi
Province.  Open Doors' Carl Moeller commented, "I
think these crimes thoroughly justify at least a life imprisonment sentences.
These are horrific crimes against innocent children who were killed on their
way to school, and made an example of to the Christian community there with
threatening notes that were accompanying the bodies that were found." 

Theresia Morangkir, Alfita Poliwo, Yarni Sambue and Noviana
Malewa were walking to school through a cocoa plantation in Poso Kota when they
were attacked.  Noviana managed to fend
off her attackers but suffered severe wounds. 
She has since healed and played an integral role in the conviction and
sentencing. 

It's unclear whether there will be an appeal.  There are some concerns the courts were too
lenient, or that the verdicts will result in sectarian violence.  The alleged members of the al Qaeda-linked
Jemaah Islamiyah network left threats vowing more killings to avenge the deaths
of Muslims in earlier sectarian violence on Sulawesi
island.

Since then, more violence has occurred, although the
government seems to be cracking down on the terrorism aspect.  Tensions flared after the 2005 beheadings and
again in September 2006, after the execution of three Roman Catholic militants
convicted of leading a 2000 attack on an Islamic school that killed up to 70
people.

Moeller says Christians need support.  "Our encouragement to believers there is
that just as the first century church endured these types of persecutions, and
then literally, turned the world upside down, they can still see their prayers
and their efforts to reach out to their persecutors have an effect."

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