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Friday, March 24, 2017
Moluccas: death toll rises in outbreak of sectarian violence
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 Twenty-six people, including 17 Muslims, have been killed and 180 injured in the clashes between Muslims and activists of a small Christian separatist movement, the FKM/RMS, on the Indonesian island of Ambon the Missionary News Service reports. Fr Kees Böhm, a Sacred Heart of Jesus missionary and director of the crisis centre of Ambon, said yesterday's victims include a policeman who arrived on the island from Jakarta to restore order yesterday. Fr Böhm said that several hundred homes were torched on Monday afternoon in the districts of Talake and Batugantung. The Protestant university UKIM, which had recently been rebuilt after it was destroyed in 2000, was also set on fire. Yesterday morning the local and provincial authorities met with political and religious leaders with a view to containing this new wave of violence. Fr Bohm was keen to stress that FKM/RMS has only a few hundred supporters and that these never use weapons, Fr Böhm ­ who is an expert on the situation in the Moluccas and has published a book on the three-year conflict between Muslims and Christians (January 1999-spring 2002) ­ confirms local media reports that the violence is the work of "terrorists". He said Christians are allegedly coming under attack from a small number of Islamic extremists who have taken advantage of anniversary celebrations to trigger unrest and loot. The missionary said that even if they have nothing to do with the separatist movement, Christians who are attacked risk "degrading themselves" and in turn becoming "terrorists" by taking revenge. But he emphasised that so far the violence has been restricted to the Poka district while the rest of the island is relatively calm. The inter-religious conflict of 1999-2002 affected large areas of the Moluccas, and was characterised by all kinds of violence: homicides, fires, looting, destruction, forced conversions to Islam. According to official data, roughly 13,500 people died in total. In spring 2002 the two communities signed a peace agreement in Malino (Sulawesi). Since then, with the exception of sporadic violence, it seemed that peace had returned to the region. Source: MISNA
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