Muslim and Christian leaders in Indonesia's war-ravaged province of Maluku have signed a peace agreement Tuesday to end more than three years of bloodshed that has cost thousands of lives. Indonesia's government mediator, Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla, says both sides really wanted to end the bloody conflict that has torn families apart and forced more then half-a-million people to flee the once idyllic Maluku islands.
Muslim and Christian leaders signed a peace deal on Tuesday in the South Sulawesi town of Malino, 1,400 kilometers east of Jakarta.
The agreement calls for the creation of two joint commissions for security and social and economic affairs that will monitor the truce. The agreement also provides for both sides to lay down their weapons, bans militias, and calls for the internally displaced to return to their homes. It also allows for the return of property and reconstruction in the province. Much of Maluku was laid to waste after sectarian violence broke out in January 1999.
Thousands of lives were lost, homes and property burned to the ground, and once peaceful Christian and Muslim neighbors tried their best to drive each other out of the region. The fighting began over property and ethnic disputes, but quickly came to be defined by religion. Fighting escalated to an unprecedented level in May 2000, after more than 3,000 members of the Islamic paramilitary group, the Laskar Jihad (Holy War Soldiers) were sent to Maluku. The Laskar Jihad refused to attend the Malino peace talks, and sent a message saying that Muslim leaders there did not represent the people of the Maluku Province.