On 19-21 January 2016, HD brought together leaders of Government agencies and interfaith groups, as well as community leaders and non-government organisations of Ambon in North East Indonesia to build consensus on consolidating peace in the troubled city.
Ambon suffered from a vicious conflict between Christian and Muslims communities from 1999 to 2002 that cost almost 10,000 lives, and it is now struggling to overcome the legacy of distrust. Long after the conflict ended, there are still periodic outbreaks of religious violence and the two communities remain segregated, leaving the city vulnerable to future eruptions of violence.
The three-day event, funded by the European Union (EU) and the Government of New Zealand, was organised as part of a two-year project that aims to facilitate dialogue between the religious groups while building the capacity of local organisations to foster peace over the long term.
Having discussed what they saw as the drivers of conflict in the city, interfaith and community leaders committed to playing a more proactive role in violence prevention. During the session, local interfaith leaders:
Deepened their understanding on how dialogue and mediation processes are conducted;
Practiced some of the key skills to facilitate dialogue and mediation processes;
Shared experiences of conflicts they encountered in the past; and,
Developed a network of facilitators to support each other in the future.
HD’s project also seeks to raise the issue of religious conflict with the local Government in Maluku. Following the meeting, the Head of Maluku Religious Affairs Office, Fesal Musaad, commented that in the past the Government had “taken conflict settlement issues for granted” with little funding provided to the Government’s main religious conflict resolution mechanism, the Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama (FKUB)”. However, HD’s project has helped to build awareness of the essential role dialogue can play in solving conflict with a renewed regulation providing increased funding to the FKUB about to be submitted to Maluku Parliament.
Justus Pattipawae, the Director of one HD’s local partners in Ambon, the Institut Tifa Damai Maluku (ITDM), said the aim of the event was to build a network of facilitators that could help promote peace in areas outside of Ambon. Saiti Gusrini,Project Officer of the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, agreed saying that the project aimed to create “peace provocateurs” that “spread peace principles to other post-conflict areas”.