Becoming Red and White: The Legacy of New Order Nationalism on Interfaith Relations in Ambon
Moseley, Benjamin Locke
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This paper analyzes the roles of the nationalistic policies and rhetoric of the New Order in facilitating a wave of sectarian violence that plagued the island of Ambon in Indonesia’s Maluku Province from 1999 to 2002. While the sectarian violence in Ambon did not begin until almost a year after the resignation of Suharto in May 1998, this paper endorses the belief that the roots of Christian-Muslim anxiety, mistrust, and, eventually, violence in Ambon can be traced to government efforts to manipulate religious organizations, diminish local institutions, and suppress regional identities. Furthermore, the period of political liberalization that followed the resignation of Suharto, known as Reformasi, created the necessarily conditions for sectarian violence to occur as the different religious and ethnic groups living in Ambon became increasingly nervous about their political, social, and economic positions in a post-Suharto Indonesia. In this paper, newspapers, anthropological articles, and contemporary reports are utilized to examine the outbreak of the sectarian violence, the rhetoric surrounding the violence, and its origins in the policies of the New Order regime. As Ambon was only one of many places in Indonesia to experience violence in the Reformasi period, this paper strives to situate the sectarian conflict in Ambon in the context of national post-Suharto violence and unrest.