More than 80,000 Muslims rallied in Indonesia's capital today, threatening to declare a holy war against Christians if the government fails to stop religious fighting that has killed almost 1,000 people in the country's eastern islands.
Officials put the death toll in fighting between Christians and Muslims during the past two weeks in Maluku and North Maluku provinces, some 1,600 miles northeast of Jakarta, at about 990. Thousands of troops have been sent to the islands, and officials say the violence has subsided in recent days.
Almost 90 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslims. Analysts have warned that if the violence does not end soon, it could engulf other regions.
The two provinces, known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial rule, have been troubled by fighting between Muslims and Christians for the past year. About 1,800 people have been killed since the violence began, according to government estimates.
An influx of Muslims from Indonesia's other islands over the past two decades has changed the religious makeup of the provinces, where Christians once had a small majority.
The rally, held after morning prayers at Jakarta's National Monument Square, followed a series of smaller protests by Muslims in recent days. Police estimated that 80,000 people gathered in the vast park.
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's new reformist government is struggling to deal with several bloody conflicts across the vast Indonesian archipelago. But while separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya provinces threaten Indonesia's territorial integrity, only the Spice Islands conflict has the potential to ignite sectarian violence nationwide.