12/16/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Christians and Muslims in Sulawesi demand an independent inquiry into past violence

by Benteng Reges
Suspicions fall on local politicians, army officials and police officers hiding behind religious motives.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Following the revelations of Fabianus Tibo—one of three Catholics sentenced to death for the 2000 sectarian violence in Poso—demands are growing that the real culprits of the violence of that period be identified. Increasingly, religious hatred does not seem to be the sole motive.

Leaders of Poso's Muslim and Christian communities have gone to the central headquarters of Nahdlatul Ulama (Indonesia's main Islamic organisation) in Jakarta to meet its president, Kiai Haj Hasyim Muzadi, a well-known advocate of inter-faith dialogue.

According to Rev Rinaldy Damanik, chairman of the Synod of Churches of Central Sulawesi, and Adnan Arsal, president of the Islamic Brotherhood Forum in Poso, it is urgent to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine the causes of the 2000 violence when thousands were killed.

Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu were sentenced to death for their role in the violence. But last month, Tibo revealed that there were at least 16 people involved in the Poso violence, including government officials.

For Both Damanik and Arsal, the government's task force on the Poso violence has failed so far to come up with a single culprit.

"We respect the work of the task force, but we want the government to encourage the participation of various groups in the inquiry, including religious leaders, so as to shed light on this enigma," said Arsal.

For Reverend Damanik, an independent commission of inquiry would help the population better understand what happened in Poso.

"So far, the events have been explained in terms of social problems—people think that it was all because of religion".

For some observers, sectarian hatred as the explanation hides other issues such as corruption amongst local authorities, the lack of security forces intervention and army involvement to the extent that the weapons used during the incidents were army issued.

Although such issues came back to the fore after Tibo's revelations, they had already come to light at his trial in 2001 but ignored.

Nahdlatul Ulama president Muzadi backs the proposal of the two Poso religious leaders saying that he hoped the government would deal with the situation right away.

"The people of Poso are sick and tired with sectarian conflict," Muzadi said. "Everyone knows that religion was used for political and personal purposes at that time".

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