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Interreligious harmony in Sulawesi

Manado in northern Sulawesi has well-established networks that can intervene to calm down any religious provocation, writes Karim Raslan in The Star.

Published: August 17, 2011 09:20 AM GMT

Updated: August 17, 2011 10:02 AM GMT

Interreligious harmony in Sulawesi
Karim Raslan, on Flickr

As a Malaysian in Indonesia I’m always caught between a sensation of familiarity and distance. I’m simultaneously a participant and an onlooker, a “local” yet an alien all at the same time. (Karim Raslan, The Star) Indeed, as I read of newspapers being burnt, churches raided and inexplicable backroom deals, Malaysia – my poor Malaysia – was never far from my thoughts. ... I hadn’t expected much from this northern Sulawesi city (of Manado). ... I (understood) that the majority of the province’s 2.27 million population were Protestant, and that it was located on the upturned, extended finger-tip of the island. It’s in fact closer to Davao in the Philippines’ than to Jakarta, some three hours to the southwest. ... As I spoke with local leaders, such as Father Nico Gara (former secretary of the Gereja Masehi Injili di Minhasa, Manado’s largest church), I was struck by their determination to manage religious relations amicably. Indeed, Father Nico was also a key member of the province’s inter-faith network (incorporating Muslim and Christian leaders). ... “We have well-established networks that can intervene to calm down any religious provocation. In fact, sometimes it’s easier for us to talk to the various Muslim groups rather than the other Christian denominations! “Still, we act quickly and responsibly. There are times when people deliberately feed lies to the two different religious communities in order to create trouble. We have to step in, calm the situation down and tell the truth.” This is in contrast to the bouts of sectarian strife much of eastern Indonesia has suffered over the past decade, with clashes in Poso, Maluku and Ambon. Manado, conversely, has been largely peaceful, an enviable record that locals are very proud of. FULL STORYManaging religious relations amicably (The Star) PHOTO CREDITWorld Economic Forum on FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

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