09/14/2022, 12.25
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Ambon: Bishop asks authorities to respect religious coexistence

by Mathias Hariyadi

The head of the regency of Western Seram has denied the Christian community access to a road to a national religious event. Sectarian clashes between Protestants and Muslims took place in the area between 1999 and 2002, resulting in the deaths of at least 5,000 people. MSgr Seno Ngutra: rulers are not always friendly to Christians.

Ambon (AsiaNews) - The bishop of the diocese of Amboina has accused the local authorities of hindering and complicating peaceful coexistence between religious communities in the Moluccas. 

Yesterday, in a meeting with journalists at his residence, Bishop Seno Ngutra openly criticised the head of the regency in Western Seram, a region where sectarian clashes between Muslims and Protestant Christians killed at least 5,000 people between 1999 and 2002. 

General Andi Asaddudin, who governs the district, denied the Christian community access to a main road leading to Kupang, the city where the Presparani festival, a major nationally celebrated Catholic event, will be held in October. 

"The district chief has prevented a peaceful situation, so we have expressed our concerns to the Moluccan governor," explained MSgr Ngutra. "The leaders of the interfaith forum were also denied an interview with General Asaddudin," the cleric added.

In recent days, representatives of the different religions in the district, including the bishops, have had their personal cars confiscated by the local authorities. The leaders of the forum for interreligious dialogue had already lodged complaints on the issue with the Minister of the Interior, Tito Karnavian, and President Joko Widodo.

This is not the first time that General Asaddudin has been against the activities of the Christian community. The budget for the Presparani festival was granted only after much pressure, Bishop Ngutra explained.

"It is a good gesture that a state budget has been allocated, but I am also inclined to look deeper into the personal gestures of the general, who has not always been so friendly to the Catholic community,' the prelate commented. 'Indeed, he often questioned the necessity of holding the Pesparani festival and other issues related to the event'. 

The Moluccan conflict had been very violent on the islands of Amboina and Halmahera. The clashes had started in the wake of the economic and political instability following the fall of the Suharto government and the division of the then single province of the Moluccas (Maluku) into two. Christian and Muslim religious militias confronted each other with extensive bloodshed until the signing of the Malino II agreements in 2002.

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