CLERICS SAY AMBON DISASTER PROVOKED
27th April Eighteen people are known dead and over 100 have been injured in Ambon, one of the Maluku islands of Indonesia. Conflict began following the celebration by the Christian supporters of the Republic of South Maluku movement on 25th April, marking the 54th anniversary of a failed independence bid. In response Christian neighbourhoods have been attacked and burned by Muslim protesters. The office of the United Nations Development Programme and the Christian theological university were burned down.
Religious leaders accused on Tuesday "third parties" of inciting the renewed violence in Ambon, Maluku province, and urged police to take firm action where necessary.
Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucian leaders from the Indonesian Committee for Religion and Peace said that "provocation" was the best explanation for the violence that had killed over 30 since Sunday. In the past few years people in Maluku have been wary of any signs of the violence that led to thousands being killed since 1999. After their meeting at the office of the country's second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, which committee member Din Syamsuddin leads, he said, "We call on people to resist being provoked by third parties" that have a "political motive". He said the leaders demanded that the police and intelligence bodies identify and seek the perpetrators, "who do not want peace in Maluku".
Chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) Nathan Setiabudi said "We don't believe that the burning of the Muhammadiyah high school building in Ambon was committed by Christians. If we find that it was we shall hand them over to the police," Nathan said.
Other parties, including House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, also blamed the police and other security personnel for their failure to control the situation.