Moluccas bishops says conflict political not religious
The local Catholic bishop says Christian groups are not involved in the reported escalation of Muslim-Christian tensions on the Indonesian island of Ambon that has recently claimed at least 38 lives.
Bishop Peter Canisius Mandagi MSC told ABC Radio's Religion Report this week that there are Christians involved in the FKM separatist group, but the group cannot be identified as Christian.
"I think we cannot call the. Christians, because the separatist group cannot be related to Christians," he said. "I consider this conflict is created by a special group related to political interests."
A fragile peace had returned to the island after a prolonged period of communal violence lasting from 1999 to 2002, but the violence has broken out again in the past month.
Bishop Mandagi, who is perceived as a moderate, told presenter Stephen Crittenden that the violence is "very serious".
"Already 38 people are killed. Besides that there are a lot of houses burned, and a lot of people also have injuries because of this violence, and the people here in the Moluccas, they are very frightened, they are afraid because about two years ago the conflict happened in the Moluccas for four years, and now they're afraid that the conflict will be along again," he said.
Bishop Mandagi blames political, rather than religious, groups for the violence.
"In this conflict, it's not related to religion, this conflict is related to political interests. To me, because the people here both Muslim and Christian, they forgive each other because of the past conflict, they want to live together, so both Christian and Moslem realise that this conflict is set up for political interests."
Bishop Peter Canisius Mandagi on Ambon (ABC Religion Report 5/5/04)
INDONESIA: TWENTY-FIVE DEAD, SCORES WOUNDED IN AMBON CLASHES (Jesuit Refugee Service Dispatches 4/5/04)
Indonesian bishop distances Church from separatists (CathNews 30/4/03)
War fears resurface in Ambon (CathNews 28/4/04)
7 May 2004