08.05.17 | News, Three questions for
Three questions for...Reverend Ronny Sumtaki who knows how fragile peace between Christians and Muslims can be
In the Evangelical Christian Church in Halmahera (GMIH), Reverend Ronny Sumtaki is responsible for many things including a peace programme. In an interview, he talks about how the peace project helped his church members and the community of the Moluccas to regain peace after they experienced pain and sorrow caused by the religious conflict between Christians and Muslims from 1999 until 2002.
What have been your personal experiences during the conflict in the Moluccas?
I became a victim during the conflict as well. It is painful for me to remember that time because back then I was separated from my family and friends. The conflict which especially took place in the Halmahera region did not only destroy material things but also the kinship between Christians and Muslims.
We hurt each other only because of political issues, natural resources and boundary issues. It caused a lot of casualties on both sides and many of my church members became victims during that conflict. We also had to flee from our homes because we were not safe there anymore.
How did you manage to reconcile and restore peace?
Today, the relationship between adherents of Islam and Christianity is better because they learnt to accept one another and maintain peace. The conflict has caused a great wound to the people in the Moluccas. And it needs a long time to heal that wound. For example, I lost my family and my congregation fell apart. But I and most of the people in the Moluccas realised, that we should forgot our painful past, forgive each other and move on for better future.
One practical example how we managed to restore our relationship with each other: When the people returned from the evacuation areas Muslims provided home appliances for their Christian neighbours so that they could restart their lives.
It was also very helpful for both parties to realize that the kinship ties between them are very strong and should not be separated by anything. It has been accustomed for decades that the people in Indonesia come from mixed families where some members are Christians and some Muslims and they lived peacefully together.
How is the situation in the Moluccas today? And what's your advice on how to maintain peaceful relations?
Today, the relationship is closely intertwined again. If Christians or Muslims carry out a family event or a religious celebration they invite each other and celebrate together. Indonesia is a multicultural country with many different religions. Our state motto is "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika". It means "Unity in Diversity" and is very important in maintaining the unity of Indonesia. In my opinion, the government should control the people who want to misuse politics or religions to separate us and disturb our peace.
My advice for a peaceful interaction between Christians and Muslims would be that the church and the government must work together actively to keep peace and to maintain it – not just in Indonesia but all over the world.
The interview was conducted by Mega Kamase Sambo.