Opposing Christian and Muslim factions in the Maluku islands of Indonesia signed a peace accord early last week hoping to end three years of sectarian warfare. But within days, protests, rock-throwing and bomb blasts tested the accord.
Soon after the end of the three-decade dictatorship of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesia’s religious conflict erupted. The conflict claimed between 5,000 and 10,000 lives, left 700,000 people displaced and resulted in hundreds of homes burned and destroyed churches.
An estimated 90 percent of Indonesia’s 210 million people are Muslim. In the Maluku region, Muslims and Christians are evenly divided.
Media sources generally trace the escalated fighting to the arrival of a militant Islamic group named Laskar Jihad in the Maluku province.
Time’s Asia edition said Laskar Jihad was founded by an Islamic teacher who “spent several years in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, both studying and fighting against the Soviet invasion.”
These Islamic extremists share the same “militant Wahhabi creed followed by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban,” Time reported.
Time’s article contained a picture of a group of young Indonesian boys wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts.
According to The Jakarta Post, Laskar Jihad flatly opposed the peace accord and refused to remove its 3,000 militiamen from the region.
Both Muslim and Christian peace delegates said neutral security forces were needed to ensure peace in the region, the Post reported.
Indonesia’s sectarian violence represented another example of the global conflict between Christian and Muslim faiths.