Tue, 06 Mar 2001

GPM congress begins in Maluku

JAKARTA (JP): Governor Saleh Latuconsina opened the 34th Maluku Protestant Church Synod (GPM) Congress in Ambon on Sunday, with a call for conflicting camps in the province to make peace and to refrain from using religion for political means.

"I believe the GPM will continue promoting the unity of Indonesia and reject disintegration. Therefore, I ask Christian leaders to stick to the pure purposes of the religion and avoid manipulation, exploitation and political maneuvers," Latuconsina said as quoted by Antara.

Bloody communal conflicts between Muslims and Christians in Maluku and North Maluku have gradually subsided since breaking out in the middle of January 1999.

At least 8,000 people have been killed and 230,000 others displaced by the violence.

The 10-day congress is being attended by 400 representatives from 25 orders from North Maluku and Maluku, as well as members of the Indonesian Protestant Church and Maluku churches in the Netherlands. They will elect new executives of the GPM Synod for the next five-year term.

Among the guests attending the opening ceremony were the secretary-general of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) in Maluku, Malik Selang, Ambon Mayor Chris Tanasale, Pattimura Military Commander Brig. Gen. I Made Yasa, Maluku Police chief Brig. Gen. Firman Gani and the speaker of the provincial legislature, Zeth Sahuburua.

Malik expressed hope the congress would bear fruit in restoring peace in the area.

"We wish the congress success in electing new GPM executives and promoting peace among the masses," Malik said.

He added that MUI also supported the Maluku People's Congress, which will be held soon.

Outgoing GPM chief Rev. Sammy Titaley said the congress was aimed at finding solutions to the conflict in the Malukus. (edt)