Hysteria in Aceh

Dec 24th, 2005, in News, by

Islamic leaders in the Indonesian province of Aceh have claimed that aid and charity workers are secretly attempting to convert the Acehenese to Christianity.

Fundamentalist preachers in Aceh, where Islamic sharia law is the law of the land, point at World Vision, Aceh Relief, the International Catholic Mission and Church World Service as being those charitable organisations suspected of proselytising.

Rumours have periodically swept through Aceh of conversions to Christianity among ordinary people. In Muslim law apostasy is forbidden and punishable by death.

Additionally, it appears Western women have been sent text messages threatening them not to wear skimpy clothing at the beach. Further, mullahs have ordered people in Aceh not to get involved in any Christmas celebrations held by aid workers.

In perhaps the most bizarre instance, and the one most condemning of the Muslim attitude to other faiths, is the story of an elder of the al-Hassanah mosque in Banda Aceh’s Geuceu district. He said a gift of Christian money could not be used for a new roof for the mosque. Instead, the money was borrowed from elsewhere, and the donated funds from the liberal American Catholic Relief Service were used to repay the loan. This it seems kept the mosque pure of contamination from Christian money.

The venality and stupidity of the devout Muslim clerics in Aceh knows no bounds. This comes on top of recent claims that the tsunami was caused by sin. It is also confirmation of the irrational fear of Christianity that permeates Indonesian Islam as discussed in the persecution of Christians piece.

16 Comments on “Hysteria in Aceh”

  1. Zaynab says:

    Hello All,

    In my recent visit to Aceh for the commemorations i did not witness anything but respect to the Aid workers and Christian groups. There were signs everywhere welcoming them to Aceh. I have actually only heard great support for the foreigners to Aceh who are a preferred group to their fellow Muslims from Java.

    As it was Haj season there were very few Acehnese religious leaders there and the commemoration at the Grand mosque was conducted by a Javanese Ustaad. In addition many of them were killed in the giant waves along with women religious teachers and qoran teachers.

    If one of the preachers has slandered women in the way you describe, he may be suffering from guilt as many of the surviving men abandoned their wives and families the day the waves hit them which saw many of the men run and leave their wives, Mothers and children behind. We saw very few women survivors by comparison to men.

  2. David says:

    Thanks for your comment, zaynab. Do you often travel to Aceh?

  3. Zaynab says:

    Hi Patung,

    You’re welcome.

    No, I went to the commemorations to find out if an Acehnese Ustaad (Muslim teacher in a Mosque) associate was killed also. The Grand Mosque, which had the most influence out of all of the Mosques and not the one mentioned in the article, lost 3 of its Ustaads. I heard that the Grand Imam (Preacher) was still alive.

    We can send you photos of the signs I mentioned if you give me your email address.

    The refusal of the money offered need not cause offence as maybe that particular Ustaad may not want also to feel beholding to anyone as they were always independent people.

    The presence of Christians is not a new phenomena in Aceh as the neighbouring province of North Sumatra has many Christians from the Lake Toba area (Batak people), who are mostly Christian and many have or did live in Aceh. There has always been a Church on Pulau Weh (Weh Island) to my understanding and from memory there was new Church built in Sigli ( Pidie Regency)before the tsunami.

    My Acehnese friend works for UNDP in Sigli, so if you need a broader understanding of the working relationship between Christians and Muslims since the tsunami, you could speak to him as he is an Area Manager and in touch with all of the NGO’s there.


  4. David says:

    Hi zaynab,

    I’m sorry I only just noticed that you had replied to this post again. Yes please, please send the photos to webmaster at Indonesiamatters.com, replace ‘at’ with @ and remove spaces.

    I’m actually looking for people in Aceh who’d be interested in writing articles/doing journalistic work on matters in the province so if you know of anyone let me know.


  5. Cristi says:

    Hi all,
    I was wondering if any you can direct me to a link or provide me an update with the present security issues in Aceh. It would very much help, since I got a job offer at an NGO active in Aceh. The information I find on the Internet seems to be quite confusing…
    THNKS for your time,

  6. David says:

    Hi Cristi,

    Not off the top of my head no, sorry. Here on this site I focus on bad news more or less but that is not the whole story, I don’t attempt to give the whole story. If you are a western woman then I would hazard an educated guess that you will be most welcomed by Aceh people and will have no problems. Good luck.

  7. Cristi says:

    Thank you for your reply. I am a man but but I guess that does not change the situation.

  8. David says:

    No it wouldn’t.

  9. Ote says:

    Dear All,

    I found that Aceh is as common as other provinces in Indonesia. The security is quite stable.


  10. Janma says:

    my friend is working with an NGO in Aceh, he is responsible for delivering wooden houses to people who are homeless. He uses a phinisi boat and to avoid corruption at the harbours goes to beaches near the affected villages to offload his cargo. He was very downhearted when I last saw him. He is American, but a Muslim and he said that the people of Aceh were lazy and greedy. They will not even help unload their own (free) house from the boat to the beach unless they get paid for it! so i guess he’s still doing it, but not with any sense of satisfaction in helping people anymore.

  11. AgamKai says:

    Well, do you know where can I get a support to someone who was ignored by any help of NGO or something like that?

    He has to sell his own house for live (paying a debt). He is one of tsunami victims, he used to be a seller, but his shop was broking by the tsunami.

    I’ve trying to make a proposal, but no one would like to help.

    Do you have any idea?

  12. Ote says:

    Agam Kai, I think you are asking the opposite thing of what Janma says.

    Basically, from my point of view, I’ve seen a lot of what Janma’s friend said. Yup, not all though, most aceh people are only looking for falling gifts. And still they have no sense of working together ‘for free’ to build their places.

    Sorry, I’m telling the truth. No offense.

    Warm Regards,

  13. Aluang anak Bayang says:

    Another reason why shariah law should not be applied to the rest of Indonesia.

  14. Agam says:

    I agree with Janma’s friend,although not 100%. Not all Achehnese are like that, and for me it’s also related with education level & 30 years of conflict.

  15. Dimp says:

    Hi Agam,

    How do 30-year of conflict make someone lazy? Indonesians are known for their laziness, period. That is why they are poor. Not because of some “conspiracy”, it is simple, the early bird gets the worm.

  16. Heinrich says:

    I wonder where laziness comes from? Is it blood hereditary/genetic?

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