As a way to deal with the 2020 pandemic, I am remembering God’s goodness and protection and telling of his works to the next generation. This is the fifth in a series (#1 Up in Smoke, #2 Women and Children First, #3 The Riot Through a Child’s Eyes, #4 Y2K Provision) on the Lombok riots of 2000 — another time when life was upended, uncertain, and anxiety-ridden.
Muslims, Hindus, and Christians lived peacefully together on Lombok Island, Indonesia in the 1990s. The only violence this sleepy paradise knew was the occasional outbreak of a decades old tribal feud between two rival Muslim villages. Consequently, the events of January 17, 2000 caught us off guard.
Between 5,000 and 20,000 Muslims gathered in an open field. Speaker after speaker whipped the crowd into a frenzy. They began chanting “Jihad!” (Holy war) and “Death to Christians.” Shortly thereafter, the crowd went on a burning and looting spree. When it was all over four days later, 14 churches and over 200 homes of Christians had been totally destroyed and 10,000 Christians had taken refuge at various military posts.by a PIONEERS Team Leader for the PIONEERS magazine, Vol 5, No. 1, Spring, 2000
Some of those that sought refuge were our local partners Nadeem and May (not their real names). Native to one of the eastern islands of Indonesia, they were “foreigners” to Lombok, just as we were. They too moved to Lombok because God had given them a burden to share the good news of the gospel with a Muslim people group.
To that end, Nadeem and May and their young daughter settled in an isolated mountain village. For two years they built relationships and credibility in the community by contributing resources and energy. But rather than acceptance, suspicion and slander confronted them day after day. So when an angry mob crying, “Get out of our village,” approached their house on January 18, 2000, they thought it was personal. News of the organized violence that had begun the day before in the city far below had not yet reached them.
The young couple with little Rita ran outside and up the mountain slopes behind their home into a forest and across a rice field. As they fled, the clouds burst open upon them. The tropical rainstorm hindered their progress so they stopped to shelter in a shack in a rice field.
Drenched and hungry, Rita began to cry. “We have nothing,” May realized and broke down weeping too. At that very moment, a villager walking by heard their crying and inquired. May and Nadeem never knew why he was out in the rain but he escorted them to a safe home where they were given dry clothes and a bed for the night.
In the morning, they learned about the destruction taking place all over the island. and that the mob they eluded the day before had looted and burned all their belongings. They knew they had to get off the mountain and off the island.
Again, they were dependent on the aid of friends willing to drive them to the coast. May donned a Muslim head covering and Nadeem hid under a pile of vegetables in the back of the truck. Their disguises helped them get through road blocks checking for Christians. Eventually they boarded a boat and met us at the port in Bali utterly exhausted and traumatized.
Nadeem and May’s story was only one of the many we heard of God’s protection and mercy during the riots. Although belongings and homes were lost, not a single life of a Christian was taken and many were also helped by Muslim friends and strangers as Nadeem and May were.
Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and affliction for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes, and you will hear a voice say, “This is the way; turn around and walk here.”Isaiah 30:20–21 NLT
What narrow escape have you experienced? Or what adversity are you experiencing?
Which way is his voice telling you to walk?
Good Teacher, my Christian friends on Lombok experienced real adversity those days so long ago. Thank you for taking care of them and showing them which way to walk when the journey was traumatic and hard. All these years later, I am grateful that there are always kind folk that reach out to help among the supposed enemy. Help me to never assume someone is my enemy but instead be willing to help anyone in need. Give me ears to keep listening for your voice and strength to follow your lead. I trust that you will provide a way of escape when I need it.
Next in series: Rumors and Risk in the Aftermath
Nadeem and May’s story is also told in Batik, A Glimpse of the Heart by Caryn Pederson (Hong Kong: BottomLine Media, 2004) 18–19.