Changing Words into Deeds: The Role of Conflict Entrepreneurs in the Religious Conflict between the Moslems and Christians in Maluku (1999-2000)

I. Introduction

After 32 years in power, the authoritarian New Order regime under the leadership of Suharto in Indonesia finally collapsed in May 1998. Even though the new political stage has opened up hopes for democracy, there are still other areas with conflict potential filled with brutal violence, including the areas in the Maluku province. Violent conflict between Moslems and Christians that occurred in the Maluku province from 1999 to 2000 took thousands of lives.

The conflict itself can be divided into four different stages (Margawati and Aryanto, 2000; Bertrand, 2004). The first stage occurred from January 1999 to March 1999. The conflict was triggered by a brawl between preman(tugs) of a Moslem village (Batumerah) and a Christian village (Mardika). Both villages are located in Ambon, the capital city of the Maluku province. The three months conflict in the first stage took thousand of lives; more than 100,000 people sought refuge outside the Ambon island. Realizing that the conflict might be spilling over to other Islands of the province, the local and national governments launched some reconciliation initiatives to stop the violent conflict. The last devastating conflict in the first stage occurred in Tual (Kei Island), in Southeast Maluku in March 2000.

The second stage occurred after four months of relative peace. In July 1999, a bloody clash between Moslems and Christians occurred in Ambon, the capital city of the province. Meanwhile, a big riot also occurred in North Maluku at about the same time. According to Margawati and Aryanto (2000), in the second stage, the two groups became more organized; some militia groups were formed, sometimes involving children. The young Moslem militia group was called Agas, while the young Christians formed a militia group called Linggis. Meanwhile, adult Moslems joined Laskar Jihad (Jihad Troops) and adult Christians grouped together in Laskar Kristus (Christ Troops). The second stage occurred from July 1999 to November 1999.

The third stage occurred from December 1999 to January 2000. The third stage was probably the worst episode of the conflict in Maluku. In this stage, the conflict started again in Batumerah-Mardika, in which the conflict was started in the first stage. It then spilled over to many other islands of the Maluku province (Masohi, Seram, Namlea, Buru, Bacan, Obi and Halmahera islands). At this stage, the government increased the reconciliation efforts involving various elements, national and even international (particularly the United Nations, the Dutch, and the British governments).

The fourth stage was between April 2000 and August 2000. The situation had been relatively peaceful after January 2000. However, conflict erupted again as thousands of people, who claimed to be members of Laskar Jihad from other provinces, came to Maluku. In August 2000, the government was finally able to restore peace and order in the Maluku province.

Scholars have attempted to analyze the conflict. Many of these scholars have written on the big picture, such as identifying the root causes, of the conflict. Meanwhile, this paper will depart from an assumption that a conflict occurs naturally; instead it is somehow activated and exacerbated by a group of people described as conflict entrepreneurs. This paper endeavors to address one important question: how do conflict entrepreneurs mobilize people along primordial lines (in this case religious identity)?

II. Linking the Concept of Conflict Entrepreneurs and Social Movement Theories

The tendency for violent conflict, such as what has happened in some areas in Indonesia, has confirmed to some degree the findings by Ted Gurr, that countries experiencing the early phase of democratization are in high risk of violent conflicts caused by nationalism or ethnicity (cited by Jack Snyder, 2000:20). It is in this context that Indonesia can be an interesting case study given the fact that Indonesia is such a large and extraordinarily diverse country in terms of its ethnic and religious composition.

The paper is based on the identification of the cause of conflict made by Kenneth Waltz (1959). According to Waltz, there are two types of causes in any conflict or war situation: permissive cause and immediate cause. Permissive cause refers to general contexts, such as social or political contexts of a given society that experiences conflict. Poverty and unequal distribution of resources have often been regarded as the root cause of conflict, as it is believed that they increase the level of grievance.

Drawing on the big picture of a conflict, although important, is not sufficient in understanding conflict. Ashutosh Varshney (2002), for example, has shown that two different places that share similar characteristic might experience different paths, one may remain peaceful and the other one may well be trapped in a long protracted conflict. It simply suggests that an elaboration of the big picture of a conflict needs to be complemented by a more micro explanation. An explanation on immediate cause provides an entry point for that purpose. Unfortunately, literature on immediate cause of conflict has not been well developed. Immediate cause consists of event(s) in which long- time grievances reach their boiling point. Such an event rapidly transforms a latent conflict situation into an open and violent one. This paper is an attempt to analyze the conflict in the Maluku province by looking at the immediate cause of the conflict.

The transformation from a latent conflict situation to a violent one suggests the existence of a facilitating factor that precipitates the process. This process is seen as a resultant between grievances of a group of people and greed of another group of people (Berdal and Malone, 2000), whether they are perceived or factual ones. At this point, the presence of conflict entrepreneurs as crystallizing agents becomes important. Conflict entrepreneurs deliberately take advantage or manipulate the greed and grievances, which in the end prolong the conflict.

The term conflict entrepreneur that is used in this paper emphasizes the capacity of an individual or a group of individual to mobilize identity of people within their groups against another group through their act of speeches. The act of speeches creates a strong in-group feeling that highlights the ‘us-them’ identification. Espen Barth Eide (1997) defines a conflict entrepreneur as follows: “An individual who takes the necessary and deliberate steps to ignite a violent conflict by utilizing a specific situation or in order to gain something through the exploitation of new power relationships.

Another term, political entrepreneur, is also used to define actors who “specialize in activation, connection, coordination, and representation”. Charles Tilly (2003:34) states that:

[Political entrepreneurs] specialize in activating (and sometimes deactivating) boundaries, stories, and relation, as when Bosnian Serb leaders sharpened boundaries between Serbs and their Moslem or Croatian neighbors…they specialize in connecting (and sometimes disconnecting distinct groups and networks…they specialize in coordination as when those [Serbian] leaders organized joint action…political entrepreneurs specialize, finally, in representation, as when Bosnian Serb leaders claimed to speak for all Bosnians of Serbian lineage.

With such specializations, it can be said that political entrepreneurs are significant in determining the “presence, absence, form, loci and intensity of collective violence” (Tilly, 2003: pp.34-37). The reason is that political entrepreneurs are usually connected with the so-called violent specialists. Every government holds sovereign rights to organize legitimate violent specialists, such as military force and police. However, there are also violent specialists who work outside of government. For example, paramilitary forces, thugs, and guerilla warriors. With regard to collective violence, the connection between political entrepreneurs and violent specialists who work outside the government is a major factor that increases the lethality of a conflict.

It must be noted that the term does not necessarily suggest that conflict or political entrepreneurs seek personal or material benefits out of a conflict in which they are involved. In some cases, a conflict entrepreneur may emerge in a group of people that desperately needs a leader to defend itself from an attack, as the group believes, to be launched by another group. Therefore, conflict entrepreneurs might exist for collective purposes. As a result, in a conflict situation, community or religious leaders may well be considered as conflict entrepreneurs. The reason is that in many cases, these leaders, through their act of speeches, are very critical in galvanizing the sense of solidarity among people within their own group as well as inflaming the sense of animosity toward the enemy.

In other words, to borrow the term commonly used in the international relations discipline (Lipschultz, 1995), these leaders serve as securitizing actors who convince people within their group that other groups are threatening the very survival of their own group. Social movement theorists have also studied how religious institutions, such as churches, can be used as a center of mobilizing networks. Aminzade and Perry (2001: 157) assert that religious and sacred factors are two important ingredients in the development of collective action.

Scholars who work on conflict studies have noted that the role of elite ambitions needs to be given particular attention to understand how a conflict evolves. The reason is that elites always have distinctive interests that can only be met if these elites are able to invoke primordial supports from particular ethnic or religious groups to which they belong (Horowitz, 2000:111). This raises two important questions: first, what factors enable conflict entrepreneurs to appeal to the masses? Second, how do conflict entrepreneurs mobilize the masses in advancing their cause.

Three theories in social movement literature, namely political opportunity structure, resource mobilization, and movement framing, can be utilized in answering the two questions. To answer the first question, resource mobilization and political opportunity structure theories are useful.

Resource mobilization theory focuses on the problems of how collective actions become possible among individuals. The early resource mobilization theory focuses on the question why people involve in collective action. Citing the work of Mancur Olson, Tarrow (1998:15) maintains that only the most important members, i.e. elites, of a group who have interest in achieving collective good. In other words, elites become important agents behind collective actions.

Meanwhile, recent resource mobilization theorists, such as McCarthy and Zald, focus on the means and resources available to collective actors, such as professional organization and the existence of ‘movement entrepreneurs’ (cited in Tarrow, 1998:15). Edwards and McCarthy (2005: 177) propose five types of resources on a collective action: moral, cultural, social-organizational, human and material resources.

Legitimacy, solidarity and sympathetic support are some forms of moral resources. Cultural resources may include knowledge to accomplish certain tasks, for example, the capacity of a movement’s human resource to produce the movement’s repertoire in many forms: internet, music, literature, magazines, newspapers, films and video. These cultural products “facilitate the recruitment and socialization of new adherents and help movements maintain their readiness and capacity for collective action” (Edwards and McCarthy, 2005:126).

Human resource availability is therefore very important to a movement’s cultural resources. An intentional social organization is needed to further social movement goals. Also, it is needed for recruitment and socialization purposes. Finally, a movement will incur costs so that it needs to utilize and expand its network to meet the financial needs. Conflict entrepreneurs, by definition, are actors who try to mobilize the five resources to activate a collective action.

The second question can be addressed by using the theory of framing processes. In this regard, religious symbols and beliefs are acknowledged as important sources of collective framing. The act of speeches carried out by conflict entrepreneurs involves framing processes. The act of speeches might result in mass hostility between two or more groups. Kaufman (1996) argues that ‘emotional heat’ such as symbols that link grievances and emotional attachment of an identity causes group members to develop negative attitudes toward an out-group. Such negative attitudes, according to Kauffman, are motivated by usually exaggerated fear of extinction (1996: p.109). Fear of extinction is a topic that can frequently be found in the act of speeches of elites or leaders who try to delineate a clear boundary marker of their group.

In- and out-group conceptions are commonly used in ethnic mobilization. An ethnic mobilization is an effort to make clear ethnic boundary markers. Identity claims possess a totalizing character. Klaus Eder (2003:67) observes that once collective identities clash, “stepping out becomes impossible …the conflict about identities becomes a battle about the ultimate.” Identity claims involve framing processes as they empirically examine how a given situation is defined and experienced. Therefore, according to Snow and Benford (quoted in Cadena-Roa, 2002:202),

Mobilization depends not only on the availability and deployment of tangible resources, the opening or closing of political opportunities, or a favorable cost-benefit calculus, but also on the way these variables are framed and the degree to which they resonate with targets of mobilization.

Drawing from his research on a Mexico City social movement organization, Cadena-Roa (2002) argues that dramatic representation of a conflict through framing processes can effectively provoke public response, since it involves emotion. The Barrio urban poor movement in Mexico City has been successful since it took advantage from Mexicans’ passion for wrestling by creating Superbarrio, a humorous masked crusader who used the dramaturgy of wrestling for framing purpose. Wrestling, in the Mexican cultural context, is far more popular than any other sport (Cadena-Roa, 2002:208).

It must be noted that framing processes are dynamic and are influenced by, among other things, the social cultural context to which they are attached. In other words, the political opportunity structure is an important factor in the framing processes in a sense that it can provide socio cultural opportunities and present constraint to collective action frames (Benford and Snow, 2000:628). In the end, a social movement is influenced by pull and push factors. Pull factors are conceived as factors that draw to movement to a particular form of collective action. Meanwhile, a movement will also be shaped by a ‘push’ of solidarity and collective identity (Tarrow, 2003:201).

III. Changing Words into Deeds: How Conflict Entrepreneurs Operated in the Conflict in Maluku

Conflict entrepreneurs use various media to increase ‘emotional heat’ to mobilize their own group against the perceived enemy. This part of the paper attempts to analyze print and online (internet-based) media used by Moslem and Christian groups during the brutal conflict in the Maluku province. To explain how conflict entrepreneurs generated mass hostility during the religious conflict in Maluku, this section will examine the means through which the act of speeches of some actors from both groups reach the masses. For that purpose, print and online materials published by some Moslem and Christian individuals or groups during the conflict, particularly by Masariku Network (Christian) and Laskar Jihad (Moslem), will be assessed[1].

Print materials that will be examined are the following: newsletters published by the two groups and also local religious-based newspapers. However, this paper only provides some examples on how these two groups, which I identify as conflict entrepreneurs in the Maluku conflict, framed their message, which reinforced the in-and-out group feelings. In a situation such as religious conflict, conflict entrepreneurs might prefer to frame and use words that have exact meaning in order to create a black-and-white depiction of their own group as well as of their opponent. David Snow (2004:384) notes that framing serves several functions; it can “serve as articulation mechanism in the sense of tying together various punctuated elements…and perform transformative function as in the transformation of routine grievances or misfortunes into injustices or mobilizing grievances in the context of collective action.”

During the conflicts, the two religious groups often distributed pamphlets on specific occasions that have symbolic meaning for the groups. For example, Laskar Jihad would use the Friday prayer in mosques, while the Catholics and Protestants would do their part during Saturday or Sunday sermons. Also, each group would presumably publish their own version of violent incidents, accusing their opponents of manipulating information. The two groups, in fact, believed different stories regarding the conflict. An ICG Report (No.10, December 2000) states the following:

For Christians these stories centered on national plot to introduce Islamic law and wipe them from the province. For Moslems, the focus was on an international conspiracy to create a Christian state in the heart of Indonesia.

As far as print mass media is concerned, it is acknowledged that wars are partly what media make them. Media reporting on conflict in many cases are implying that violent acts and killing are acceptable (Allen and Seaton, 1999:3). In the context of the conflict in Maluku, there are two local newspapers that need to be mentioned: Suara Maluku Daily (viewed as a Christian media) and Ambon Ekspress (viewed as the media of the Moslems).

“The war” in Ambon also occurred in the Internet. Many websites popup when the conflict was at its peak. Both sides, through the websites, provided “their own version of the conflict, photos from the battlefield, and the traumatic stories of atrocities” (ISAI, 2004: 38).

Both groups also used the Internet to mobilize support and channel their messages (Brauchler, 2002). It took the forms of mailing lists and also the creation of websites. During the four stages, a lot of websites with content concerning the Maluku conflict appeared on the Internet. Some website, such as Ambon Berdarah (Ambon is Bleeding) Online[2] that belongs to a Christian group, contained vulgar photos of the dead bodies of the victims of the conflict. Websites maintained by various Moslem groups were also available. Most of these websites, not surprisingly, claimed to provide ‘first hand information’ (Brauchler, 2002:4). Masariku has a mailing list[3] that is still active, while Laskar Jihad has both, a website and a mailing list[4].

Political Opportunity Structure: Indonesia’s Democratic Opening

Soon after Suharto’s resignation in May 1998, religious conflict intensified in the country. In November 1998, a riot with religious nuance erupted in Ketapang area of Jakarta, the capital city. The riot was triggered by an exchange of arguments followed by a fight between a local Moslem and a Christian Ambonese over the right to control parking lots at an entertainment center. In the following day, an Ambonese gang attacked local people living in the surrounding area of the entertainment center. It triggered angry reaction from the local Moslems. Very quickly, a riot broke out during which more than twenty churches were destroyed and several people were killed and wounded (Bertrand, 2004:104).

In Kupang, the capital city of the Nusa Tenggara Timur province, local Christians gathered to mourn what had happened in Ketapang a few days earlier. The mourned Christians then held a rally that became uncontrollable. Moslems’ properties were destroyed, including mosques. The Christians, who constitute a majority in Kupang, also attacked various properties belonged to Moslem migrants. As a result, Moslem migrants fled the city and came back to their province of origins. Soon after hundreds of Moslem migrants fleeing Ketapang arrived in Ujung Pandang, the capital city of South Sulawesi province, a Catholic church was burned down (Bertrand, 2004: 104).

These incidents increased the sense of uncertainty felt by Indonesian Christians since the 1990s. In this regard, changes in the policies of the New Order government in which Suharto started to seek new support from the Islamic constituencies in the 1990s need to be mentioned. The government sponsored the establishment of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI), which then became very influential in the country’s political dynamic (Heffner, 1993). In fact, Suharto’s handpicked successor, B.J Habibie, was the Chairman of ICMI. In the words of Arief Budiman (1994: 232):

Many of [ICMI] members became members of parliament and some became cabinet ministers. A daily newspaper, Republika, was founded, an Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat, was established, and CIDES, a Muslim body for intellectuals and academicians, started to operate. Very quickly, this middle class Muslim organization has taken over the dynamic of the Islamic movement in Indonesia.

In Maluku, Suharto appointed Moslem governors for the first time. The shift in political power at the national level certainly created a new political dynamic at the local level. In the Maluku province, Moslems rose to the higher level in bureaucracy. Akib Latuconsina was the first Muslim Ambonese governor since 1968. Akib Latuconsina, who served as governor from 1992 to 1997, was the chairman of ICMI’s Maluku and Ambon branches.

Ambonese Protestants were anxious about this new development especially when it became discernible that Akib Latuconsina, as well as his successor Saleh Latuconsina who governed throughout the period of conflict, appointed many Moslems to the top level positions in the bureaucracy. Van Klinken (2001: 18-19) asserts that it created grievances among the Ambonese Protestants, which made them believed that Christians would be soon set aside from the civil service.

On the other hand, the Moslems believed that the Christians would try to keep their privileges in the province. Grievance, and to some extent greed, had been at play before the actual conflict broke out in January 1999. It provided a fertile ground for a religious conflict. Suffice it to say that the change of policy produces new power relations between the Moslems and Christians, both at the national and local levels.

It also has to be mentioned that Indonesia has undergone regional decentralization program since 1999. The democratic transition, which was started in 1998, provides an impetus for the decentralization process in Indonesia. With the experience of a long period of authoritarian rule, 32 years of the New Order government, it is logical for the new government to adopt the decentralization program, which is seen as a means to devolve deeply centralized power maintained by the previous authoritarian regime.

In North Maluku, which was also affected by the religious conflict, expectation among local elites, particularly the sultans, to acquire a new leadership role made possible by the decentralization program led to a harsh rivalry between the Moslem and Christian sultans, in Ternate and Tidore area (Nils Bubandt, 2002; Tomagola, 2000: 25-28). With this rivalry that came as a result of the decentralization policy, the case of North Maluku shows that a new political context may turn out to be a potential source of collective violence.

Resource Mobilization and Framing Processes

As mentioned earlier, the bloody conflict in Maluku started on 19 January 1999. It was triggered by a quarrel between an Ambonese Christian and a Bugis (Moslem) migrant. It was then defined in religious terms marked by the burning of churches and mosques. The International Crisis Group (ICG) Report gives an interesting observation. The report points out that during the conflict, the Ambonese Moslems “allied themselves with co-religionists, such as Moslem migrant from Bugis, Buton and Makasar all of which are ethnic groups from South Sulawesi.” Meanwhile, in another devastating conflict that occurred exactly on the same day in West Kalimantan, Malay Moslems allied with non-Moslem Dayaks to kill Madurese Moslem migrants (ICG Report, 2002:2)

The alliance between Ambonese Moslems and the Moslem migrants illustrates how the sense of solidarity can emerge. The Ambonese Moslems might need the Moslem migrants who happened to be economically better off. On the other hand, the migrants might also need the local Ambonese Moslems for protection against local Ambonese Christians that felt threatened by the increasing economic power of the Moslem migrants.

The Moslem and Christian groups became more organized in the second stage of the conflict that started in July 1999. As noted by the ICG Report (February 2002), both groups were equally strong during the initial stage of conflict. However, in mid 2000, a Java-based radical Moslem group sent thousands of fighters to Ambon to put the Christians into defensive position. These fighters received military training before they were sent to the troubled province. They were also often equipped with standard military weapons. Laskar Jihad was reportedly supported by a sympathetic element within the Indonesian military. However, it was also reported that some police units supported the Christians (ICG Report, February 2002).

Laskar Jihad, however, believed that it was the Christians who enjoyed the full support from the security apparatuses. One email in Laskar Jihad’s mailing list[5] states that:

The conflict between the White (Moslem) and the Red (Christian) groups continues in almost every place in the Ambon Island. The Red is helped by the security apparatuses and supplied with standard weapons. They tried to provoke us to attack them, but we’re only defending ourselves with homemade weapons (translations are mine—pjv).

One thing is obvious: the failure of the police and armed forces to maintain their impartiality explains why the conflict was prolonged and became so violent.

It is interesting to note that the mailing list of Laskar Jihad was also started in mid-2000,[6] when Laskar Jihad started to send the fighters to Maluku. It means that Laskar Jihad functioned both as, in Tilly’s terms, a political entrepreneur and a violent specialist. In addition, the mailing list of Laskar Jihad was set to be a one- way communication. As a result, there were no discussions, since the member of the mailing list could only receive messages, not send.

In the very first email, Laskar Jihad tried to convince its audience that the Christians were part of the international conspiracy by stating that the United States (U.S.) supplied the Christians with sophisticated weapons.[7]In another email, Laskar Jihad also mentioned that Australia helped the Christians with weapons.[8]

In addition, the website of Laskar Jihad was also used as a means to spread the message. In the website, Laskar Jihad did not hesitate to frequently use the words such as perang salib (crusade) or perang sabil (religious war) in referring to the situation in Maluku. It was also clearly stated that the goal of Laskar Jihad was the Islamization of the Maluku province, in particular, and the application of the Moslem law throughout Indonesia (Brauchler, 2002: 9).

A retired army general, Rustam Kastor[9], published a book during the conflict in which he emphasized that the conflict in Maluku occurred because Maluku’s Protestant churches and some secular parties were collaborating to revive the old Republic of Southern Maluku (Republik Maluku Selatan – RMS). In the book entitled Facts, Data, and Analysis of RMS-Christian Conspiracy in Destroying Moslem in Ambon, Maluku, Rustam Kastor frequently referred to the RMS as the Republik Maluku Serani, with Serani being a local term for Christian (Noorhaidi Hassan, 2003:7). The Christian newspaper, Suara Maluku, attacked Rustam Kastor and accused him of spreading big lies through the book. Suara Maluku published two long papers criticizing Rustam Kastor’s book.[10]

Laskar Jihad also frequently stated that the purpose of their presence in Maluku was to defend the national unity and territorial integrity of Indonesia. Similar to Rustam Kastor, Laskar Jihad also held a belief that the Christians attempted to erect an independent Christian state in Maluku by reviving the RMS. On their part, the Christians, or at least the most provocative Christian website (Ambon Berdarah Online), rejected the accusation, but did not entirely deny the existence of the RMS separation movement. In the website of Ambon Berdarah Online, an old photograph showing a moment when the RMS was proclaimed can be found. The caption of the photo states “When it was proclaimed in 1950, the RMS (Republik Maluku Selatan) was supported by both the Moluccan Christians and Moslems.”[11]

To mobilize people and to show how the Moslems were attacked by the Christians or vice versa, both sides also used VCDs. On the Christian side, two VCDs titled Tragedi Maluku (The Maluku Tragedy) and Ambon Berdarah(Ambon is Bleeding) were massively circulated in 1999. The VCDs contained scenes of church burnings and also scenes that showed the failure of the armed forces to keep their impartiality (ISAI Report, 2004: 38).On the Moslem’s side, there were more VCDs produced and circulated (ISAI Report, 2004:38). The titles of the VCDs, to name a few, were Halmahera Berduka (Halmahera Mourns) and Maluku Berduka (Maluku Mourns). Not only circulated in the Maluku province, these VCDs reached audience across Indonesia. The “emotional heat”, not only in Maluku, increased, making it difficult for both sides to end the violent conflict.

Print media also trapped in the conflict and failed to provide objective reporting to their readers. Moslem and Christian newspapers reported their own versions of various incidents and in many instances included reports that would certainly create the image about the cruelty of the other group. For example, Suara Maluku that was generally seen as a Christian newspaper provided the following report:

Before that, since very early in the morning until late in the afternoon of January 20th, 1999, thousands of Moslems from many villages in Leihitu area had attacked, massacred (including pregnant women), burned, bombed and destroyed [Christian] villages in Benteng Karang, Hunuh/Durian Patah, Nania and Negeri Lama (translation mine)[12]

These lines simply show that the media, of both sides actually, contributed to the conflict by directly or indirectly increasing the emotional feeling of the readers.

IV. Conclusion

This paper has shown that in the case of the religious conflict in Maluku, the political opportunity structure, resource mobilization and framing processes are three concepts that cannot be separated. The democratic opening in Indonesia created a shift in the power balance tilted toward the Moslem side, which created a sense of insecurity among the Christians. The decentralization program that has been started since 1999 also provided new opportunities for local elites (sultans) in Maluku to regain their leadership role. Although the decentralization has been seen as a part of the country’s democratization processes, in Maluku it revived the politics of identity, which led to conflicts.

Indonesia’s democratic opening also enabled various groups to emerge and to raise their voice, such as Laskar Jihad or internet-based group such as the Masariku Network. Although it can be seen as a good sign of the formation of democratic society, it also means that groups that advocate exclusivist idea can also emerge and spread intolerant attitude.

This paper has also identified the push and pull factors that caused the violent conflict. Conflict entrepreneurs in the Maluku conflict found that media, print and online, were useful in spreading their framed-messages. Conflict entrepreneurs formulated their own version of the bloody conflict, with regards to the chronology of particular incidents, photos of the brutality of their opponents, and also traumatic stories of atrocities by the other group. These then increased ‘the emotional heat’ that exacerbated the conflict. As a result, the conflict prolonged and became more lethal. Meanwhile, it reinforced the in-group and solidarity feeling within each group.

From the resource mobilization perspective, conflict entrepreneurs in the conflict in Maluku were also successful in mobilizing their networks. The Ambon Berdarah Online, for example, supplied information for various Christian groups, in and outside the province. It even updated information for many Christian groups outside Indonesia. Interestingly, the Ambon Berdarah Online received information from various groups, including newsletter churches, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and from other sources. It served as a hub for various groups, confirming the definition of conflict entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs made by Eide and Tilly used by this paper.

There are some areas of this paper that can be strengthened by further researches. This paper does not sufficiently discuss the role of the state in the conflict. Although it touched upon the failure of the state security apparatuses in maintaining their impartiality during the conflict, the paper does not address why such a failure occurred.

Another caveat is that the groups and individuals discussed in this paper cannot be treated as the representative of all Moslems or Christians. In fact, the conflict finally ended partly because there was many actors, from both groups, who persistently tried to initiate a peace process. They sometimes worked together and were being accused by the members of their groups as traitors, for working with the enemy. These peace advocates can be researched by using the same framework. The peace advocates also framed their messages, wrote newsletters, created website, used print media in order to change the culture of violence in Maluku into the culture of peace.


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References and Footnotes

  1. To my knowledge, it was Brigitte Brauchler who firstly researched the utilization of internet by Masariku Network and Laskar Jihad during the conflict. See her paper titled “Cyber democracy and the Moluccan Conflict” (2002).
  2. The URL address is (the author accessed the website on 10 February 2006).
  3. The archive of the Masariku mailing list is accessible at (the author accessed the website on 10 February 2006).
  4. The archive is also accessible at (the author accessed the website on 10 February 2006).
  5. This email can be found at (the author accessed the email on 5 April 2006).
  6. The first email message that can be found in the yahoogroups’ archive was dated on May 25, 2000.
  7. This accusation can be read in an email in the Laskar Jihad’s email archive on the Yahoogroups website.
  8. See author accessed the website on 10 April 2006).
  9. Rustam Kastor is an Ambonese and was once a high rank officer in the Army military command in Maluku.
  10. The two papers can be found at (the author accessed the website on 27 February 2006).
  11. The photo can be accessed at (the author accessed the website on 26 February 2006).
  12. Archive of Suara Maluku, accessed through Ambon Berdarah Online at (the author accessed the website on 2 April 2006).
Researcher, Department of International Relations, CSIS Jakarta; Political Science Department, Northern Illinois University. Core member of the Interseksi Foundation