As some of you are aware, there has been ongoing outbreaks of violence between Muslims and Christians in my once-home of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Much of the violence is known by those who are close to the situation to be deliberately provoked by para-military jihad groups seeking to destabilize the region. In fact, there has been evidence that Al-Qaeda personell have been involved in training and supporting some of these militants. ( http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapc...eda/index.html
In the last few weeks, it seemed almost certain that a new wave of violence was about to happen. Thousands of refugees, most of them victims of violence against Christian villages, had been forced to the region of Tentena and were without any protection against well-armed militants. However, to everyone's surprise, it appears that the Indonesian government is actually going to do something about it this time, rather than look the other way as is their normal reaction.
from cnn asia:
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Feuding Muslim and Christian factions have agreed to halt three years of brutal religious violence on Indonesia's eastern island of Sulawesi.
The peace deal follows four failed attempts to quell brutal violence that has killed more than 1,000 people over three years around the town of Poso in Central Sulawesi province.
But the deal did not call for the expulsion of Muslim paramilitaries from the Java-based Laskar Jihad organization, whom Christians have accused of fanning the latest fighting.
The Sulawesi peace drive took place against a backdrop of heightened security across the world's most populous Muslim nation, as police try to prevent a repeat of Christmas Eve bombings near churches last year that killed 19 people.
Indonesian Justice Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra has said he wants to use the Poso model for ending fighting between Muslims and Christians that has hobbled the nearby Moluccas islands since 1999.
Indonesia's outer reaches have been prone to communal and ethnic violence since the downfall of autocratic former President Suharto in 1998.
In the latest bout of clashes, gunmen on Wednesday shot dead nine Christians in the violence-torn city of Ambon in the Moluccas.
But in a sign that light is at the end of the tunnel for some provinces, Islamic leaders told Reuters news agency on Thursday that the two factions had made some headway.
"The meeting went smoothly and there was a strong (push) to achieve peace from both sides...Both parties agreed to mutual forgiveness," Din Syamsuddin, a senior Islamic leader from Jakarta and a mediator at the two-day talks, told Reuters.
Speaking by phone from the venue of the meeting in the South Sulawesi town of Malino, 1,425 km (890 miles) east of Jakarta, Syamsuddin said Laskar Jihad members were part of the agreement.
Christians have accused members of the Laskar Jihad organization of stirring up the Poso conflict.
Hundreds of members of the Muslim group have gone to Poso since July and one of its leaders said on Wednesday hundreds more had been sent in recent weeks.
Poso police have said there had been no reports of any new fighters arriving. Laskar Jihad has also fought Christians in the Moluccas.
They have little influence on Java island, despite being based there.
Local television SCTV quoted Chief Social Welfare Minister Jusuf Kalla, who hosted the talks, as saying the government would set up an independent commission to oversee the pact's implementation.
The pact includes a call for the surrender of weapons, the repatriation of tens of thousands of refugees to Poso and a pledge by both sides to respect each others' religion.
National police chief General Da'i Bachtiar said security forces would begin seizing weapons that had not been handed in next month, the official Antara news agency reported.
Even as progress is being made, police across Indonesia remain on high alert until the New Year to prevent a repeat of the bombings last Christmas Eve, which political analysts said were aimed at destabilizing the government of then-president Abdurrahman Wahid.
In Jakarta alone, police have 15,000 personnel on standby to safeguard the capital during Christmas and into the New Year although they have yet to begin tightly guarding churches.
If this deal actually proves to stop the fighting and restore the communities that have been ripped apart by this sectarian and religious factioning, I think it will be a real step. The only way to stop violence like this is for the people involved to come together and mutually agree to put an end to it. I'm hopeful. Cautious, but hopeful.
[This message has been edited by sulawesigirl4 (edited 12-20-2001).]