Suspected terrorists attacked a Salvation Army service post and brutally murdered four Christians in the remote village of Lemban Tongoa in Sigi Regency, Central Sulawesi on Friday.
Around 10 militants burned down the church and proceeded to kill four people. They hacked three of the victims to death, slitting their throats and beheading one of them, according to Reuters. The other victim was killed by burning, a report from the International Christian Concern said.
The ICC said they saw a video showing the victim's charred body being pulled from the ruins. They described the body as being in a fowler position, suggesting that the victim endured pain and agony before dying.
The murder victims were identified as Lieutenant Abram Kako and his wife, Mrs. Mpapa, and Captain Arnianto. After killing the four Christians, the militants set six more houses on fire, the ICC reported.
Gina Goh, ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, condemned the murders and urged the government to bring the perpetrator to justice.
"ICC mourns the death of the Indonesian brothers and sisters who were brutally murdered by the alleged terrorist. We urge the Indonesian government to take necessary measures to hold him accountable and put him to justice. Such senseless act cannot be tolerated in the country that boasts 'Pancasila,' the state ideology which promotes religious harmony and tolerance," Goh said.
The other residents in the village fled in fear and hid in the forest, local news outlet iNews.id said. As of this writing, the authorities are still searching for the victims' neighbors.
Authorities initially found it challenging to gather more information and conduct investigations, as the village is located in a remote and hilly area. However, there are now around 100 men on the ground searching for the militants, national police spokesperson Awi Setiyono told Reuters.
There was also confusion as to the number of perpetrators. Earlier reports said there was only one man involved while other reports said there were at least 10. The terrorists are believed to be connected with the Poso East Indonesia Mujahidin DPO Group, but the authorities are still verifying this.
Gomar Gultom, head of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said he was "very concerned" about the attack on the four Christians and urged the police to resolve the case.
"I am very concerned about the violence that occurred in Lewonu Hamlet, Lembantongoa Village, Central Sulawesi, where the Salvation Army houses of worship and 6 houses were burned, 4 residents were sadistically killed. I express my compassion to the families who have been left behind and the Salvation Army," he said in a statement, local outlet detiknews reported.
He also asked the authorities to go after the remaining terrorists, particularly in Poso and Sigi, so the residents can live without the threat of terror. He emphasized that the "presence of the state" needs to be felt all over the country so that communities can have a sense of security.
According to Open Doors, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with Christians comprising only about 12% or 32.8 million of the population. Persecution against Christians is more intense in some regions of the country compared to others. In 2020, Indonesia ranked 49th on the World Watch List of countries where believers are most persecuted.