Courtesy Reuters

Indonesia Unraveling?

SEARCHING FOR AN ANSWER

At first glance, the Tagolu village community hall has the look of an American Grange hall. Rough wooden planks line the floor. A worn but sturdy podium sits at the end of a room that can hold 50 farmers. The roof is tin and rusting.

But hanging from a beam in the center of a room typically reserved for celebrations and weddings is a crude, handmade noose fashioned out of three electrical wires. Its maker clearly took pride in his craft: he painstakingly twisted a fourth wire around the main coils to ensure the noose would be strong enough to choke the life out of a human body.

A small section of the floor beneath the noose is stained black. A few feet away, much larger smears cover the floorboards. A soldier guarding the site points out shapes: a bloody handprint near the center, a bloody footprint a few inches away. "They probably tried to run away," he says. Spread across the room in disparate patterns, the stains form a map. Spattered drops mark where a victim was first slashed. A larger stain signals where life seeped out of the body. A long smear traces how the corpse was dragged away for disposal.

The remains of ten people were buried in pits in a schoolteacher's backyard a few hundred yards away. Several had been decapitated. One body was that of a pregnant woman. "I'm sure whoever killed them was really drunk," the soldier offers, trying to explain what happened here. "If not, they wouldn't have had the heart to do it."

The victims were among more than 250 people killed last year during street clashes between Christians and Muslims in the town of Poso in eastern Indonesia. Bordered by turquoise sea, verdant mountains, and emerald rain forests, the bustling harbor town appears an unlikely axis of religious hatred. But over the course of 18 months, what began as a fight between two drunken teenagers -- one Christian, one Muslim --

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