09/04/2013, 00.00
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East Nusa Tenggara: bishop appeals against violence between opposing political factions

by Mathias Hariyadi
Three people are killed, dozens of homes are burnt and hundreds of people are forced to flee following clashes between supporters of the outgoing district leader and of his successor, who won the election. The Constitutional Court's decision to confirm the poll's results unleashes the wrath of part of the population. Checkpoints are set up to ensure order and guarantee security.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Mgr Woga Edmund, bishop of Weetebula, has appealed for peace and calm on the island of Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province. In recent days, the prelate has personally mediated between the warring factions, meeting crowds, calling for an "end to the violence" on Sumba.

Part of the world's largest Muslim nation, the predominantly Christian island is deeply divided into opposing political factions and clans. The clashes between them have caused at least three deaths and left dozens of houses smouldering with hundreds of people forced to leave in search of safer areas.

The violence was blamed on supporters of the losing faction who backed outgoing District leader Kornelius Kode Mete who, after losing his appeal, will have to leave office.

Following the release of election results by the Electoral Commission, the Constitutional Court in fact upheld in late August the victory of the Markus Dairo Talu and his deputy Ndara Tanggu Kaha, who will now head West Sumba District.

The Constitutional Court heard a formal complaint. After considering the case, it upheld the election outcome, a decision that sparked a negative reaction among a substantial portion of the population, who took to the streets to show their dissatisfaction.

In view of the situation, Mgr Edmund Woga spoke out against violence, whatever the source, and called for an end to the provocations. He did so after he met with the local police and military leaders as well as the outgoing District Chief Kornelis Kode Mete and his successor, Markus Dairo Talo.

On Sumba Island, the presence of the Church is critical as locals have deep respect for the bishop and the clergy, who act as local community leaders.

In direct talks with the bishop, the outgoing district chief and his successor accepted the prelate's call for calm, and asked their supporters to end the tensions and stop the violence.

One of the first actions undertaken was setting up checkpoints in the most sensitive areas in order to monitor possible outbreaks of violence.

For its part, the police began patrolling residential areas and streets to search for weapons and other dangerous objects.

In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, some 3 per cent of the total population.

In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, Catholics are 3.6 per cent of the population, but in some eastern parts of the archipelago, they are the majority (East Nusa Tenggara).

As active members of society, they have contributed to the nation's development and provided assistance during emergencies, as was the case in last January's devastating flood.

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