Christians and Muslims hope for peaceful coexistence in Maluku Islands

Security has improved whilst trial of those responsible in April violence continues.

Ambon (AsiaNews) – The invisible line separating Muslim and Christian communities is slowly disappearing. Better security and the prosecution of those held responsible for the April violence have led to improved relations between Muslims and Christians on Ambon Island (part of the Maluku Islands, formerly known as Moluccas). Despite some isolated incidents relations between the two communities are now pacified, this according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, enabling many international organisations to resume operations in areas of Ambon once thought unsafe.

Held under tight security, the trials of separatist Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) leaders seem to be contributing to the restoration of peace. FKM's Secretary-General Moses Tuanakott, Oly Manuputty, wife of FKM leader Alex Manuputty, and another 17 FKM members are charged with treason.

A Protestant minister, Agustinus Sahertian (also known as Avner He), is also on trial for allegedly distributing leaflets urging people to fight the Indonesian army and Muslim fundamentalist paramilitary group Laskar Jihad that has vowed to fight a holy war against Christians.

On August 6 in Ambon District Court, the Prosecution asked that Reverend Sahertian be sentenced to two years in prison for incitement prolonging the violence in Ambon City.

A separatist demonstration had started in the city on April 25 and had led to running clashes between Muslims and Christians that lasted till mid-May killing 41 people.

Inter-religious strife began in 1999 and left about 5,000 people dead so far. Another half a million have become refugees. Maluka Christians and Muslims signed a peace accord in 2002, but hostilities have not completely ended. (MA)