People on the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia celebrated another step towards peace as the Indonesian government lifted the civil emergency status in the region reports Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). The civil emergency status was put in place on June 27, 2002 in response to a spate of attacks by Laskar Jihad militants and to prevent the influx of foreign militants. The lifting of the emergency status took place at the inauguration of the newly-elected Governor, Karel Albert Ralahalu, and Vice-Governor M Abdullah Latuconsina on Monday. Under the civil emergency, it became virtually impossible for foreigners and journalists to travel to the Moluccas However, it did allow local security officials to keep a tighter control on people arriving in the region and to respond rapidly to violent incidents. The improved security also enabled for local Muslim and Christian leaders to focus on reconciliation efforts and the situation has been steadily improving. In the last few months there have been only a few minor incidents which can be attributed to the small number of militants still in the area. However, given that the investigation into the Bali bombing unearthed evidence of terrorists from Jemaah Islamiah and other organisations using the Moluccas as a training and recruitment area, the authorities need to remain vigilant for any renewed militant activity. CSW has been involved in the region since 1999, assisting Christians and communities facing violence and working with Muslims and Christians towards reconciliation. The agency has lobbied the Indonesian government to ensure a just and lasting peace and has also arranged interfaith delegations of Moluccan leaders to lobby parliamentarians from the EU and Westminster. CSW supporters have funded local human rights groups to organise evacuations of Christians facing forced conversion to Islam. Jacky Manuputty, Director of the Interfaith Council of the Moluccas, said: "This is the right moment to enjoy freedom from fear and to establish law and order. It is our opportunity to restore tolerance, trust and peace and to learn to forgive each other. On behalf of the people of the Moluccas, I would like to thank everyone who has supported peace and justice for our islands. May God bless them all." CSW's National Director Stuart Windsor added: "This is another positive step for the people of the Moluccan Islands who have suffered so much in the last few years. Local people in their communities are desperate for peace to continue so they can rebuild their lives and homes. CSW will continue to work with local communities of both Christian and Muslim backgrounds and the Indonesian authorities to ensure this is a lasting peace." The Moluccan conflict, which began in 1999, has left some 10,000 dead and over half a million displaced. Many areas remain segregated along religious lines. Source: CSW/Ekklesia
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