Indonesian Spice Islands Peace Plan In Danger Of Collapse Due To Violence Promoted By Islamist Extre

Sunday, March 10, 2002

A series of violent attacks on both the Muslim and Christian communities is threatening to derail the peace process in Indonesia.

Whilst the majority of Christians and Muslims support reconciliation efforts, militant Islamist group Laskar Jihad continues to exploit communal tensions.

The Moluccas conflict has already claimed more than nine thousand lives and left over half a million people displaced.

On February 12, the Indonesian government brought Muslims and Christians together and negotiated a truce for the Moluccas, the Malino 2 Agreement.

The government agreed to be responsible for law enforcement and security aspects of the agreement, but the fragility of the peace process was soon to be exposed.

A peaceful Muslim-Christian peace rally in Ambon city on March 2 was marred by violence after a group of unidentified attackers set on the marchers with machetes.

Two people were reportedly taken to hospital with serious injuries while two people suffered slight cuts. Six people are still believed to be missing.

The rally was the first time in years that many Christians and Muslims had mingled freely, having previously been segregated into religious districts as a result of the conflict.

This sort of attack, directed at undermining the peace process, is a far from isolated incident. On another occasion, a bus driver taking Christians from Tulehu had stones thrown at his bus while he was driving through the Muslim area of Batu Merah and of Galunggung, a Laskar Jihad stronghold.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, enjoys a long history of religious tolerance, but the growth of militant Islamist organisations such as Laskar Jihad has jeopardised this reputation.

The freedom with which they are allowed to operate has raised serious questions among the wider international community and consequently has undermined both foreign investment and tourism.

A CSW team member, recently back from an inter-faith delegation visit to Indonesia, reported that the deep-seated desire of both Muslims and Christians was for a lasting peace.

The Malino 1 Agreement signed on December 20 and relating to nearby Sulawesi, ensured the government committed a large security contingent to the conflict area, which in turn has stopped the violence. The commitment is only due to last for six months and many fear that if the security forces pull out, the violence will flare up again.

Stuart Windsor, National Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: "The peace process on the Moluccas is on a knife-edge. It is a tragedy that a small number of Islamist militants are able to sabotage these genuine moves to peace. The fact that extremist are able to attack both Christians and Muslims, apparently with impunity, is an outrage and must be addressed.

"It is hard to understand why these groups are allowed to tarnish Indonesia's international reputation without any repercussions.

"The Indonesian Government must take strong and effective measures against those inciting hatred and participating in violence in Sulawesi and the Moluccas. They must be brought to justice."

CSW also calls on the government to back the Malino process with concrete action by ensuring the security measures recommended are implemented as a matter of urgency.

Indonesia will need considerable assistance to rebuild war-torn areas and to rehabilitate Muslim and Christian communities. CSW urges the international community to offer its assistance to the reconciliation process to contribute to a lasting and genuine peace.

For more information or photographs, contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email