In Moluccas, Peace Has Taken Root Quickly

Amboina Bishop Sees Speedy Reconciliation Between Faiths

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AMBON, Indonesia, JUNE 25, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Reconciliation between Christians and Muslims is taking place at a rapid pace in the wake of the 2002 signing of the Malino Agreement, says Bishop Petrus Mandagi of Amboina.



The bishop made his observation Sunday in this regional capital of the Molucca Islands, shortly before participating in a solemn ceremony of reconciliation between the two religious communities.

"Today there is an atmosphere of confidence and hope," he told the Fides news service. "People show good will in dialogue and look at each other as brothers and sisters. I am surprised to see the speed of the reconciliation process after years of conflict."

The three-year conflict, ended by the Malino Agreement of February 2002, had left more than 15,000 dead and 500,000 homeless.

The ceremony of reconciliation was presided over by local religious leaders -- Protestant, Catholic and Muslim -- in the presence of thousands of islanders. The day marked the official reopening of free circulation of people and goods, transport and the reopening of the Protestant district of Ambon city, which had been off-limits except for Protestants.

Bishop Mandagi told Fides that the "process of reconciliation between Muslims and Protestants has taken giant steps forward. I am surprised when I remember the intensity of the past violence. Today people believe again in dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation. Protestants and Muslims live and work side by side; gradually the districts of the city, previously rigorously separated, are opening for cultural and commercial exchange."

"Everyone seems to realize that they were manipulated and exploited by radical groups from Jakarta, sectors of the army and political lobbies interested in keeping the insane conflict alive," the prelate said. "Today it is the Muslims themselves who reject the extremism of Laskar Jihad, the group which came to bring the 'holy war' to the Moluccas, and which has now left the islands."