Fr. Agus, architect of the Malino peace accord: Martyrs, victims of a manipulation of religion
by Mathias Hariyadi
The priest is the new executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Dialogue. A native of the Moluccas, he experienced the Muslim-Christian conflict firsthand. He was one of the protagonists of the historic 2012 Declaration, which established peace between the two communities. To AsiaNews, he speaks of "the manipulation of religion to exacerbate the conflict."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The "modern martyrs" are people who have been killed "because Christian or Catholic" and who would not renounce their faith. This is what Fr. Agus Ulahayanan tells AsiaNews.  He was one of the architects of the truce that ended the violence between Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas at the turn of the millennium.

The Indonesian priest of the diocese of Amboina, is the new executive secretary of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI Hak). Head of the diocesan committee at the time of the peace negotiations, he was able over time to accumulate experience and ability in the field, in a historical period marked by ethnic-religious violence, tensions and conflicts. Thanks to his diplomatic skills, the priest encouraged dialogue and was one of the architects of the historic Declaration of Malino on 12 February 2012.
etween 1999 and 2001, a bloody war was fought between Christians (Protestants) and Muslims in Ambon in the Moluccas. There were thousands of victims; hundreds of churches and mosques destroyed; thousands of homes razed to the ground; nearly half a million refugees. In February 2002, a truce was signed between the two sides - Muslims and Christians are in equal number - signed in Malino, South Sulawesi, through a government led peace plan.

However, the truce did not stop sporadic episodes of terror against innocent victims; among the various episodes the beheading of three girls on their way to school, at the hands of Islamic extremists in October 2005 .

Fr. Agus Ulahayanan (pictured), a native of the Moluccas, experienced first-hand the tragedy of the conflict that has affected not only Ambon, but "almost all the territories" of the province. He stressed several times that it was not really an "interfaith" conflict but rather of violence resulting from a "manipulation" of religion aimed at "exacerbating minds" and thus fuelling conflict.
After months of analysis, interviews and collections of documents on the field, the priest says he is increasingly convinced that the religious element "was manipulated" to become "fuel" to the flames of conflict and key to "instill a sense of fanaticism ". The conflict was between radical Muslims and Protestants, he adds, but ended up involving Catholics who because of their customs, cultural and social cohesion had strong links with one of the two warring parties.

He remembers the victims of the conflict belonging to the Catholic community - few in number, but many if the data is taken as a percentage of the total of the faithful in the Moluccas - and the devastation, including destroyed homes and a hospital in Paso burned and razed to the ground .

Finally, he lists three different "types" of deaths due to the conflict: those who died in battle; people affected and caught up in the conflict and finally, the many who were killed because of their Christian faith, for refusing to "forcibly convert" to Islam.

"When we talk about 'modern' martyrs for the faith - says Fr. Agus - I think of the third category I mentioned. These innocent people were killed just because Christian or Catholic. "