Indonesia: The roots of Muslim Christian conflict

world | Oct 25, 2006 | By Adrian Morgan

Today, an interview with a Muslim leader in Poso is related in AKI where the Muslim, Adnan Arsal, has blamed the police in the province of Central Sulawesi for a recent rise in sectarian violence. On October 16, a Protestant priest, Rev. Irianto Kongkoli, was shot in the nape of the neck as he bought ceramic tiles from a shop in Palu, the provincial capital.

In Poso city, on the coast, there has been violence since Monday night. The unrest apparently started when police were attacked by an armed group while they were on patrol. In the ensuing violence, a young Muslim was killed. According to Reuters India, the group who attacked the police patrol were armed with automatic weapons, home-made pipe bombs and stones. Apart from the Muslim youth who died, three people were injured in the clash, including one police officer.

Arsal's verion of events is different. He claims that 700 police officers had "invaded" the city with no reason given, and they were terrorizing the citizens. Arsal stated to AKI that: "The police continue to threaten Muslims but they never bother the Christians even if, sometimes, they are the ones responsible for burning cars. It seems like the police are protecting the Christians."

There are grave doubts about the credibility of Arsal's version of the current events. As well as being historically involved in sectarian conflict on Poso, he has been instrumental in creating the current climate of distrust between the two communities, which I will describe later.

Whatever the origins of the current conflict, it is serious enough for the president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to request the home ministry to gather as much information as possible on the situation in Poso, to find out the root cause. Antara News reports that M. Ma'ruf, the home affairs minister, said: "The presidents wants us to solve the Poso problem peacefully. Of course, we have to reevaluate the real cause of the recent incidents."

Ma'ruf has said that he will be consulting with the police, as well as community and religious leaders. "The dialogs will be conducted to inventorize the real causes of the problem," he said.

The Eklesia Church on Pulau Seram street, Gebangrejo village in Poso, was set on fire early this morning, before 1 am. Though the blaze was brought under control within less than two hours, the interior of the church was gutted. The same church was recently the target of a home-made bomb, which was detonated outside the building on September 30, according to Antara News. Two other bombs occurred shortly after the attempt to bomb the church, with one happening in Poso's fish market, and another at a bus station in the city. Where explosives had then failed, arson has now succeeded.

One of the two largest Muslim groups in Indonesia is the Muhammadiya. It is relatively moderate. Antara reports that Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of this group, has claimed today that Muslim mass organizations were wanting the vice president, Jusuf Kalla, to intervene and initiate a peace process.

In December 2001, Kalla, who was then Indonesia's coordinating minister for people's welfare managed to get the main protagonists and sectarian leaders from Poso to gather at Malino in South Sulawesi, to sign a peace pact. This agreement is called the Malino Accord.

Din Syamsuddin met Jusuf Kalla last night, and said afterwards: "The other day in Malino he was successful. Now, we want the Vice President to do it again.... Vice President Jusuf Kalla on behalf of the government should take immediate action to deal with the conflict in Poso."

Syamsuddin said the government should act swiftly to quell the Poso violence, and claimed that Muhammadiya would give Kalla's peace proposals its fullest support.

Adnan Arsal (pictured below left) was one of those who signed the Malino Accord under Kal

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Adrian Morgan is a British bas
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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