Religious Clash in Indonesia
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IAN WILLIAMS: This was once the commercial heart of Ambon. It’s now no-man’s-land, dividing the Christian from the Muslim communities in what’s now a completely segregated city, a city in which both communities regard themselves as victims, where rumor is quickly accepted as fact, and where level heads are difficult to find on either side. In the devastated buffer zone, the sad and the desperate, picking their way through the rubble in a city once renowned for its religious harmony. A year of conflict, 2,000 dead, countless injured, and attitudes have hardened on both sides. There are few people not caught up in Ambon’s cycle of violence: Revenge.
MELLY LIRREY: Today I’m going to explain about environment, and its …
IAN WILLIAMS: Melly teaches English in a school on the Christian side. With no irony intended, she’s explaining how different animals defend their territory.
MELLY LIRREY: …Or by running quickly, or by bark…
IAN WILLIAMS: It’s the Muslims who’ve run from this school. It used to be mixed. Relations were good, but no Muslim student or teacher now dare travel to this part the city. Melee’s village, once mixed, is now entirely Christian. It was the scene of sporadic fighting, and for a month last year her family were forced to shelter in a refugee camp. Now they are back, and the Muslims have fled across the valley. But she says she still keeps in touch with her former Muslim colleagues, recently meeting one on neutral ground in the army hospital.
MELLY LIRREY: We are crying together, because we remember what has happened to us. Because both… We come from Christian school and teacher, and also Muslim people don’t know what happened.
IAN WILLIAMS: Melly is luckier than most. Almost 100,000 people from both sides have been driven from their homes. Few of these children have access to schools, and even the refugee camps are segregated. Diana, a Muslim, used to live in an area not far from Melly. Her entire village was burned, and for six months this camp has been home to her and her four children.
DIANA: (speaking through interpreter) We don’t understand what happened. I wouldn’t want to live through that again. There’s no way I will go back. We’ll never go back. Our house has been burned down. It’s been leveled.
TIM MOYLE: We have different sized packets for different size families, so we have a packet here for a family of two people and…
IAN WILLIAMS: Tim Moyle organizes food for the camps. Action Against Hunger is one of the few international agencies who’ve braved the violence. They’re now the most important source of food aid.
TIM MOYLE: Their condition isn’t, generally speaking, life- threatening, but I would say they’re pretty miserable. Their conditions are fairly miserable.
IAN WILLIAMS: Moyle gave up a job in Britain distributing goods for Marks and Spencer, and brought his expertise to Amdon, navigating his way between rival communities.
TIM MOYLE: Because this is a border area that we’re driving through now, we have had occasions where neither Muslim nor Christian drivers will come down this hill. We go across an iron bridge and that’s into the Christian district, and then it’s Christian for the next eight or ten miles down.
IAN WILLIAMS: Even carrying humanitarian aid, a Christian truck dare not deliver to a Muslim area. And Muslim drivers put their lives at risk if they stray into a Christian sector. As this aid was being delivered on the Christian side, reminders of the violence were never far away — a boy, filing a handle for a homemade gun. The army provided us with two soldiers, one Christian and one Muslim, to smooth our passage around the city. (People yelling) Into this incendiary atmosphere last week came Vice President Megawatees Sekarnaputree, sent here by the Indonesian president to try and bring the two sides together. Community leaders came, listened, and complained. Their language and accusations were depressingly similar. And within hours of her departure, conciliation seemed the last thing on the mind of a city now so seeped in mistrust and hatred.
HASANUSI, Muslim Leader: (speaking through interpreter) We’re trying to be patient and to take stock. We’re trying not to provoke. But it’s easier said than done. The hard part is that once you’re attacked are you just going to take it? In the end, you react.
REV. SAMMY TITALEY, Christian Leader: Megawatees suggests and hopes that the leader can explain and teach the people, “okay, you must forgive it,” but it’s not so easy, okay.
IAN WILLIAMS: Christian leaders blame the army for backing the Muslims. Muslim leaders make the same accusation against the police. In reality, whatever their dubious role might have been in the past, it’s now only the massive presence of 10,000 troops that’s keeping a tenuous peace in the city. Nobody here has a monopoly on virtue. Dr. Sudirman Abbas knows that better than most. The Christian’s have the city hospital in their sector, and so he’s converted a maternity clinic for Muslim use. In the stifling heat, patients suffering wounds from bullets and bombs spill over into the corridor and verandah. Until Jakarta sent him additional help recently, he was one of only two doctors on the Muslim side. There’s no surgeon here. Dr. Sudirman now lives in the clinic. His home has been burned, and his brother is dead, shot in the head by a sniper.
DR. SUDIRMAN ABBAS: (speaking through interpreter) I don’t understand what’s happening, but as a doctor, I only want things to heal. But I look at the injuries and the deaths, and destruction of communities and education. Everything has been shattered. I know the healing will take a long, long time.
IAN WILLIAMS: That’s a depressing prognosis. As violence continues to spread across the Maluku islands, there seems little sign of an end to the cycle of violence and revenge in the name of religion.