Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Don't separate refugees: Mar'ie

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian Red Cross Chairman Mar'ie Muhammad urged the Central Sulawesi administration on Sunday not to segregate Muslim and Christians refugees, saying that it would heighten religious and ethnic discord in the province.

"I hope the refugees will not be separated into different barracks," Mar'ie, who was former minister of finance, said while visiting refugee camps in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

He contended that placing refugees in the same camp without discriminating between faiths and races would speed up the resolution of the religious conflict.

He called on the local administration to remain neutral when helping the refugees, saying that they were all "victims of political elites" that have exploited and used religion to incite violence.

"A sense of togetherness should be maintained. All religions teach peace," he was quoted by Antara as saying.

During the visit, Mar'ie handed over 1,000 plastic mats, 2,000 sarongs, 1,000 water jars, 5,000 plastic dishes, 2,000 bars of bathing soap, 2,000 bars of washing soap and 60 packets of clothing to the refugees.

But differing perceptions on the causes of the conflict in Poso were clearly evident, with Muslim and Christian groups split on who was responsible for the prolonged religious clashes in the region, which began two years ago.

As many as 36 Muslim organizations, including the provincial chapters of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Nahdlatul Ulama and Al- Khairaat, rejected on Sunday the conclusions of an investigation by the Crisis Center of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church.

"The result is completely inconsistent with the facts," the Muslim organizations' said in a statement.

The crisis center earlier concluded that the first clash erupted in December 1998 and was provoked by two people named Herman Parimo and Agfar Patanga.

The crisis center's conclusions also explained the chronology of the clashes and attacks on houses and churches, and the amount of damage suffered.

The statement was reportedly delivered to President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and other high-ranking state officials earlier this month.

The Muslim groups said they regretted the Church's statement, noting that Herman Parimo had been convicted for inciting the riot while Agfar Patanga was still being tried.

The groups also said the center's conclusions were unbalanced and defamed Muslim groups.

However, they called on Muslims to maintain unity among themselves and other faiths. (jun)