Sunni and Shia Muslims of Sampang, Madura have signed a peace deal allowing the displaced Shia to return to their villages, more than a year after communal violence forced them to flee.
"We have decided to bury our hatred from the past riots. Now, we are ready with the agreement to respect each other's beliefs and to continue our brotherhood," Iklil Al Milal, a leader of the displaced Shia, told Khabar Southeast Asia by phone soon after the document was signed on September 23rd.
"We have been displaced for a while, and we miss home. I think this is a time for all of us to return home. This agreement was an initiation made by both sides because we want the situation to improve," said Iklil, speaking from Sidoarjo, East Java where the document was signed.
"We really hope that our brothers and sisters will return home. We want to live in peace, and therefore we are coming here to sign the peace treaty. I hope the government will respond to this soon to allow them to return to the community," said Mujaroh, a representative of the Sunni community.
Rebuilding communal life
The conflict between Sunni and Shia on August 27th, 2012, when the homes of dozens of Shia Muslims were burned and two people were killed in communal violence.
In the aftermath, some 350 Shia Muslims, including 48 children, took shelter in the municipal sports building in Sampang, where they remained for almost a year. The local government then moved them to apartment buildings in Jemundo village in Sidoarjo.
It was there that representatives of both sides began a negotiation process to settle their dispute in early August.
The result, an eight-point peace treaty, allows for the Shia Muslims to return to their villages of Bluuran, Karang Gayam and Panden, according to Tempo.
It says Sunni and Shia in the area will make a good-faith effort to reconcile and rebuild neighbourly harmony, living side-by-side in mutual respect. It further states that Shia Muslims will not pursue any lawsuits concerning past violence, but focus instead on reconciliation.
"We do not want this matter to drag on," Iklil explained to Khabar.
"After all, this agreement seems to work well for both sides. Both Sunni and Shia followers have been working on this issue since six weeks ago," Iklil explained. "The treaty is a good reminder for everyone that we have committed to live in peace and harmony."
A good lesson for Indonesia
"I am really pleased to hear this news. I think they both deserve to live in peace and harmony," said Tumaji Ikhsari, a 44-year-old cleric from Sampang.
"I hope this is just the beginning. This is a good start. I hope the peace agreement will be obeyed by both Sunni and Shia in the region. If so, this message is not only for people in Sampang, Madura; it is for everyone in our country. It means a lot as a good lesson learned," he said.
Irwan Rozaki, a graduate student at the Gadjah Mada University, said that the current situation in Sampang is a good example of reconciliation.
"I think both sides have mutual needs, especially emotional needs. They are all family after all. Therefore, I think this peace treaty is a good way to end the conflict," he explained.
More importantly, according to Irwan, the role of government as a mediator in this kind of conflict is very important.
"The local government must acknowledge that the conflict is dormant, but not dead," he added.
Abdul A'la Basyir, who headed the Shia Sampang reconciliation process, said that he was proud of the progress made by both sides.
"This is a good example of conflict resolution. I hope this good lesson learned will be remembered throughout our country – there is no conflict that cannot be resolved," he added.
"I wish we had done this months ago. I don't know why we were waiting too long," Munawaroh, a displaced Shia Muslim, told Khabar, with excitement in her voice.
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