Displaced Shia Muslims from Sampang regency in Madura, East Java, who for months had taken refuge in Sidoarjo, broke down in tears as they hugged members of the Sunni community after signing a peace treaty on Monday evening.
It was a rare moment; indeed it was a sight that few thought they would ever see, following a string of clashes between the two communities during the past few years.
“We want to mutually apologize. We are tired of the conflict and want it to end. We cannot bear to see our brothers and sisters suffering at the shelter. God willing, all the villagers will accept their [Shiites’] return,” Saningwar, a Sunni community member from Bluuran village in Sampang, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Saningar was one among dozens of people from Bluuran and Karanggayam villages who traveled to the shelter to sign the peace accord.
To show their seriousness in making peace, they said they were ready to escort the displaced Shia followers back to their homes.
Saningwar said that what the villagers had done was purely on their own initiative and without duress. He added that virtually all the villagers had wanted to attend the signing ceremony, but transportation was insufficient.
“Many parties support our efforts, including clerics and community leaders. They also came with us to attend several meetings with the displaced Shiites in Sidoarjo. We also contacted state officials, but they did not come,” Saningwar said.
Coordinator of the displaced Shiites, Iklil Al Milal, who is the elder brother of Tajul Muluk, shared the same feelings. “We have decided to bury the hatchet. There will be no hatred or revenge over the past riot. If such rioting recurs, we are ready to be responsible, including an agreement not to question the differences in faith because to us, brotherhood is above everything,” said Iklil.
The Shia followers said they would maintain religious tolerance by respecting one another’s faiths. “We will not ask other people to follow our ways,” Iklil said.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict in Sampang peaked on Aug. 27, 2012, when dozens of homes belonging to Shia followers led by Tajul Muluk were set alight and gutted by a mob. Two people were killed in the rioting.
The government evacuated hundreds of Shia followers to the Sampang Sport Stadium, and eventually to the Puspa Agro apartments in Sidoarjo.
Tajul was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for spreading religious teachings perceived by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to be deviant, such as conducting prayers three times a day, using an “invalid” Koran, regarding the Prophet Muhammad’s companions to be infidels, allowing siri or unregistered marriages and the denial of the haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Religious figures in Sampang, however, have urged the Shia community and Tajul Muluk followers to return to Sunni teachings, to end the conflict.
The situation in Sampang, Iklil said, was already calm, as all the villages expected the immediate return of their displaced neighbors. They claimed they were ready to live side-by-side in harmony, despite the differences in their faiths.
Separately, the working committee coordinator with the East Java chapter of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Andy Irfan, said peace had been achieved due to the aspirations of people on both sides of the conflict.
“This was an initiative taken directly by the local residents. Perhaps they wanted to reconcile after wondering why they should remain enemies; especially when, in fact, they had for so long lived together in peace and harmony,” Andy said.
Reconciliation efforts, he went on, had begun during the past six weeks. Around two weeks ago, both sides agreed that their discussions should be strengthened and put down in a written pledge.
Key points from the peace treaty
(Signed by the Shia followers and 16 representatives from Karanggayam and Bluuran villages):
• Residents from Karanggayam and Bluuran villages (Sunni community) say they will eradicate the enmity of the past, given the bond of brotherhood among Muslims.
• The Sunni community is ready to make peace and live side-by-side with the Shiites in mutual respect.
• If in the future an issue arises, the Sunni community is ready to resolve it amicably through consultation.
• The Shiites are ready to return to their villages.
• The Shiites intend to put behind them the differences and misunderstandings of the past.
• The Shiites eagerly wish to maintain religious tolerance by respecting one another’s faiths and they will abandon any attempt to spread their faith to those who already have a faith.
• The Shia community will not file a lawsuit concerning the past violence, aiming instead to focus on reconciliation. The Jakarta Post