Almost 90,000 Muslims poured into the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in January, demanding a holy war against Christians living in two riot-torn provinces of the Asian nation.
Maluku and North Maluku—provinces about 1,600 miles northeast of Jakarta—have been plagued by religious fighting between Christians and Muslims for about a year. The fighting has left nearly 2,000 dead in recent weeks. Both churches and mosques have been destroyed.
"We give [President Abdurrahman Wahid] one month to stop the killings of Muslims," said Husin Ali Al Habsy, a speaker at the rally. "Otherwise, we are ready to send at least 10,000 people there to defend the Muslims."
The Jakarta protest, held across the street from the presidential palace, followed a series of smaller protests in the capital in January by Muslims, who make up 90 percent of Indonesia's population of 210 million.
Christians used to have a small majority in the two provinces. But over the past 20 years, the migration of Muslims from Indonesia's other islands to Maluku and North Maluku has changed that, the Associated Press reported.
Indonesian naval troops have blockaded the islands in an attempt to halt the spread of violence, although ships carrying emergency aid will be allowed through the blockade.
About 17,000 refugees have fled the provinces since late December. The struggle for independent rule in Indonesia's Aceh province also continues to claim lives.
About 5,000 have died in Aceh in the past decade in skirmishes between government troops and freedom fighters. Ten people died in the fighting during January, according to a local human-rights organization.
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