Indonesians against the instigators of violence
Despite the beheading of three girls in Poso, on the eve of Eid ul-Fitr people want peace, not vengeance from the Sulawesi to the Maluku Islands. Religious leaders call for brotherhood during the celebrations for the end of Ramadan.

Poso (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The violence that has hit Indonesia over the past month won't find any echo in the population; Indonesians are more interested in peace and justice than vengeance. On the eve of Eid ul-Fitr celebrations, five days after the beheading of five Christian girls in Poso, Christians and Muslims on the islands of Maluku and Sulawesi do not want to see any revival to past inter-religious hatreds.

According to official sources, things are now calm in Poso a day before Eid ul-Fitr. The local deputy police chief Ricky Naldo said police, along with soldiers and residents, will ensure security ahead of the celebrations.

However, Muhammadong, a 32-year-old Muslim, said he believed this year's Eid ul-Fitr would not be as festive as last year's after the schoolgirl murders.

Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) secretary-general Ichwan Sam said he was convinced that the beheadings won't provoke renewed sectarian strife. After meeting various local religious leaders, he said both Christians and Muslims believe that the crime had nothing to do with religious sentiments.

Meanwhile, the police investigation into the October 29 murders continues. The police has heard six witnesses and stated that it knows the names of the culprits but cannot reveal any details.

According to Renaldy Damanik, who heads the synod of the Christian Church of Central Sulawesi, the murderers are not Muslims from Poso; they acted on orders of a group that wants to revive sectarian hatreds in the area.

Moviana Malewa, 15, the only survivor of the ordeal, is in hospital with serious wounds to the face. Noviana's mother, Nur Malewa, said that the criminals who perpetrated the deed want to bring back violence to Poso, but are certain that "they won't be able to provoke us".

The parents of the murdered girls are mourning their loss and calling for justice, not vengeance; they demand the police arrest the culprits right away. "We are suffering enough," they stressed.

On the island of Ambon (Maluku), the local Catholic Bishop urged Christians to preserve peace during the celebrations for the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and express their solidarity towards Muslims.

Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi called on the population to take part in tomorrow's festivities, to create "a good, clean, quiet and peaceful environment without conflict". He also suggested that Christians should "visit and greet" their Muslim friends during the celebrations.

The prelate urged Muslims and Christians to work together for peace, stressing that the October 1 bombings in Bali and the October 29 beheading of three Christian girls in Poso should not deter their commitment to peace.

The Maluku and Sulawesi Islands saw fierce fighting between Muslims and Christians in the recent past. Unlike the rest of the country, the two communities are equal in size. Overall, 85 per cent of Indonesia's population is Muslim, which makes it the biggest Muslim country in the world.

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