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Report Sights Risk of Religious Violence in Indonesia's Papua

A new report by the International Crisis Group warns of a growing risk of communal violence in Indonesia's eastern most province, Papua. From Jakarta, VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins has more.

In a new report, the International Crisis Group says there is a growing risk of conflict between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia's poorest and least developed province, Papua.

ICG senior advisor Sidney Jones says there is potential for communal conflict, but not on the scale seen elsewhere in Indonesia, such as Ambon in the Maluku islands or Poso on the eastern island of Sulawesi, where clashes between Muslims and Christians killed thousands several years ago.

"I think the risk is fairly high of localized clashes, but there isn't a high risk of a communal war on the scale of Ambon or Poso," said Jones. "But I think people have to be aware of the fact that this potential for conflict exists because it can feed into some of the other problems that Papua faces."

Some of these other problems noted in the report are the influx to Papua of hard-line religious groups from both sides, including the militant Muslim group Hizbut Tahrir and the Christian fundamentalist group Jemaah Jalan Succi.

The report says Christians in Papua feel threatened by the continuing migration of Muslims from other parts of Indonesia and Muslims are concerned about discrimination.

Although Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims, several areas, including Papua, have Christian majorities.

Jones says much of the tension in Papua comes from the migrations of people to the region from other parts of Indonesia.

"A lot of the tension has to do with the migration into Papua from other parts of Indonesia and, if you looks at the Muslim community, 80 percent, or even a little over 80 percent is migrants from elsewhere in Indonesia," added Jones. "So you have the religious factor playing into the tensions between migrants and indigenous Papuans."

The International Crisis Group report calls on the Indonesian government to reject discriminatory local regulations, identify areas of high tensions, study the impact of further migration of non-Papuans and avoid supporting any exclusivist religious group.