Violence and Vengeance

Violence and Vengeance: Religious Conflict and Its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia

Christopher R. Duncan
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt32b65z
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  • Book Info
    Violence and Vengeance
    Book Description:

    Between 1999 and 2000, sectarian fighting fanned across the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku experienced leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. What began as local conflicts between migrants and indigenous people over administrative boundaries spiraled into a religious war pitting Muslims against Christians and continues to influence communal relationships more than a decade after the fighting stopped. Christopher R. Duncan spent several years conducting fieldwork in North Maluku, and in Violence and Vengeance, he examines how the individuals actually taking part in the fighting understood and experienced the conflict.

    Rather than dismiss religion as a facade for the political and economic motivations of the regional elite, Duncan explores how and why participants came to perceive the conflict as one of religious difference. He examines how these perceptions of religious violence altered the conflict, leading to large-scale massacres in houses of worship, forced conversions of entire communities, and other acts of violence that stressed religious identities. Duncan's analysis extends beyond the period of violent conflict and explores how local understandings of the violence have complicated the return of forced migrants, efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6910-7
    Subjects: Religion, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. A Note on Translation and Pseudonyms
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xx-xx)
  8. Chapter 1 Religious Violence?
    (pp. 1-21)

    In May 2002, I attended another in a long series of meetings about forced migrants in the Indonesian city of Manado. This particular gathering had been arranged by an international NGO to lessen tensions between displaced youth and locals. The hotel conference room was filled with dozens of young Christian men and women who had lived in crowded displacement camps since fleeing the 1999–2000 communal violence in the eastern Indonesian province of North Maluku. A small group of young adults from Manado had also been invited. After explaining the purpose of the meeting, the moderator asked if anyone had...

  9. Chapter 2 Historical Preludes to the 1999–2000 Conflict
    (pp. 22-46)

    Most academic accounts of the violence in North Maluku provide historical background limited to the end of the New Order and the changing political landscape immediately after its downfall (Bertrand 2004; Klinken 2007a, 142).¹ North Moluccan history, however, does not begin with the fall of Indonesia’s long-reigning dictator Suharto. Looking at the longue durée of regional history takes into account that North Moluccans are historically constituted subjects rooted in a history of social processes that precedes both the New Order period and the communal conflict that followed its end.² An understanding of more than four hundred years of colonial and...

  10. Chapter 3 From Ethnic Conflict to Holy War
    (pp. 47-74)

    On 19 January 1999, a fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim passenger in Ambon, the capital of Maluku Province, escalated into widespread violence throughout the city. Although initially a conflict between local Christian Ambonese and Muslim migrants (mainly Butonese, Bugis, and Makassarese), it eventually took on religious overtones pitting Muslim “white” forces against Christian “red” forces.¹ This first outbreak of violence, which lasted until March 1999, eventually spread throughout Ambon Island and much of central Maluku and displaced thousands of people. The fighting erupted again in July and spread to other parts of the province, including the...

  11. Chapter 4 Massacres, Militias, and Forced Conversions
    (pp. 75-104)

    As violence spread across central and southern Halmahera at the end of 1999, tensions increased in the more populous subdistricts of Tobelo and Galela in northern Halmahera. These communities had started to worry about the spread of the conflict soon after the fighting began in Ambon and IDPs from central Maluku began arriving in the region. As the capital of the former province of Maluku, Ambon was the regional center for higher education and civil service opportunities. As fighting spread through the city and across the island, people with family in Halmahera fled north for safety and brought with them...

  12. Chapter 5 Peace and Reconciliation? From Violence to Coexistence
    (pp. 105-127)

    After the declaration of emergency and the end of large-scale violence, local communities in North Maluku were inundated with calls for “reconciliation” (rekonsiliasi, Ind.) from a variety of sources. Trauma experts from Jakarta visited and lectured people on the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation as part of the healing process (Sitohang et al. 2003). Aid workers from international NGOs ran workshops for adults and funded “reconciliation parties” for schoolchildren. Finally, local politicians talked about the importance of reconciliation for the region’s future in speeches at public ceremonies. In many of these events, the nature of reconciliation, and what was being...

  13. Chapter 6 Managing Memories of Violence: Competing Notions of Victimhood in North Maluku
    (pp. 128-147)

    The ambivalence surrounding reconciliation and the reluctance of some communities to return to their homes were directly tied to the way North Moluccans were attempting to make sense of the violence and its aftermath. As I talked with people across the region, it was apparent that many were still trying to figure out why they had been singled out as victims of violence. Others sought to justify their actions during the conflict. As part of this process, they reappraised their experiences and those of others in an effort to confirm their versions of the communal violence and to vindicate their...

  14. Chapter 7 Memorializing the Dead in Postconflict North Maluku
    (pp. 148-168)

    As North Moluccans debated the issue of victimhood and started to rebuild their lives much of the attention in the region shifted to postconflict recovery (CPRU/UNDP 2004; Tindage 2006). Local and regional government officials focused on returning forced migrants to their places of origin and shutting down camps for the displaced (Duncan 2008). International NGOs, such as the UN Development Program, World Vision, and International Medical Corps, worked to rebuild and expand infrastructure destroyed by the violence and to restore medical and educational services. Many of the problems created by communal violence could indeed be repaired: forced migrants could return...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 169-178)

    I began this book with an anecdote about a young woman named Marline who was frustrated by the way some people attempted to dismiss the religious nature of the conflict that had forced her from her home in North Maluku and killed dozens of her relatives. More than a decade later, Marline has not returned to Ternate and has no plans to do so. She visited a few times as part of reconciliation activities when she was an IDP in North Sulawesi but decided not to return. She lived in an IDP camp until 2004 when she moved to West...

  16. Appendix A. The Bloody Sosol Letter: Indonesian Original and English Translation
    (pp. 179-188)
  17. Appendix B. Peace Declaration of the Tobelo Adat Community: Indonesian Original and English Translation
    (pp. 189-198)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 199-214)
  19. References
    (pp. 215-234)
  20. Index
    (pp. 235-240)