Ambon (Fides Service) – “The Moluccas are starting a new life. There is a new atmosphere of confidence and hope. People realise that no good can come of conflict and violence. I am confident that a lasting peace agreement will soon be reached”. Bishop Petrus Mandagi of Amboina in the Indonesian Province, Moluccas Islands, said this to Fides Service with regard to the recent and long awaited revocation of the state of emergency which had lasted for almost three years.
Speaking to Fides Service the Bishop voiced relief and satisfaction: “The reconciliation process between Protestant Christians and Muslims has taken a giant step forward. Today people believe once again in dialogue, forgiveness, reconciliation. Once again local Christians and Muslims live and work side by side. City districts once rigorously divided in ethnic groups are once again alive with trade and cultural events. Christians and Muslims are able to move from one zone to another without difficulty. The situation in the Moluccas depends also on what happens in Jakarta: the civil strife in Moluccas was orchestrated from outside by radical groups, army sectors and political lobbies”.
Enforced in June 2000 to curb further attacks by Laskar jihad fundamentalist groups and consequent widespread disorder and violence, the state of emergency was finally declared over in a ceremony on 15 September in the presence of newly elected Moluccas governor Karel Albert Ralahalu and his deputy Saleh Latucosina.
During the state of emergency, the Islands were off limits for all foreign citizens including journalists. Security forces were everywhere and the civil authorities urged Christian and Muslim leaders to work for reconciliation among the communities. The Catholic community was very active in this field.
Speaking to Fides Service, Protestant Jacky Manuputty, head of the Moluccas Interreligious Council, comprising Christians and Muslims, said: “Now is the time to enjoy freedom and re-established law and order. We must rebuild tolerance, truth and peace and learn to forgive one another. On behalf of the people of Moluccas I want to thank all those who have helped restore peace and justice in the Islands. May God bless them”.
Earlier in June this year in Ambon thousands of local people attended a ceremony of reconciliation organised by the local religious leaders. The day marked an official declaration of free movement for persons, trade and transport. Previously, because of the violence, the Protestant Christian district of Ahuru in the outskirts of Ambon the capital, had to be sealed off.
Ethnic clashes in the Moluccas, which started in January 1999 and officially ended with an agreement reached in Malino in February 2002, caused the death of at least 15,000 people and left more than 500,000 homeless. PA (Fides Service 16/9/2003 EM lines 44 Words: 455)