Asia Briefing N°128
Jakarta/Brussels, 4 October 2011
Indonesia: Trouble Again in Ambon
THE “PEACE PROVOCATEURS”
In the midst of the first days of chaos, dozens of brave activists of both faiths who called themselves “peace provocateurs” rushed around dispelling rumours and urgingcalm. One of their leaders was Jacky Manuputty, a Protestant priest who returned four months earlier from graduate study at Hartford Seminary in the U.S.; another was Abidin Wakano, a lecturer at the State Islamic Institute.
They worked together with a group of young people called “Ambon Bergerak” and some members of the
Moluccan Interfaith Institute (Lembaga Antar Iman Maluku, LAIM). Their core group was about ten, each of whom had some ten or fifteen contacts around the city’s major flashpoints. They were on the phone with each other constantly, checking out stories and sending information over Twitter and Facebook and by text messages. When a member of the network in one part of town heard the rumours about the Silo Church being destroyed, he called a member of the network stationed at the church to
take a photograph with his phone and circulate it, to prove it was standing undamaged.
They identified influential “strategic partners” in border neighbourhoods and put them in touch with one another to help coordinate the dissemination of information. They were very conscious of the impact national media could have on the way the unrest was being portrayed outside Ambon and designated one person to monitor the reporting and send clarifications as necessary to the relevant journalists. Overwhelmingly, however, their activities focused on collecting and verifying reports of attacks, threats,
street blockades, injuries, crowds massing and then trying to defuse the threats. Had it not been for their work, the violence would have been infinitely harder to bring under control. Separately, city officials also worked frantically, on the phones to religious leaders, gang leaders and anyone else with influence, trying to lower tensions. But one of the biggest casualties of the unrest was the notion that Ambon had fully recovered from the past, because the lasting wounds were on display for all to see.