In the year 1999, conflict between the Islamic and Christian communities broke out in the Maluku Islands – a province in eastern Indonesia, consisting of 1,450 islands. One of the most tragic consequences of conflict experienced is the division between the Muslim and Christian communities. As a result, in Maluku, especially in Ambon and the surrounding islands, villages are divided into being Muslim and Christian villages. Unfortunately, even schools are separated in this way, despite the fact that they belong to the Government. Almost all State Schools as well as the teachers and students are labelled and divided as “Islam” and “Christian”. The outcome of this division is a strained or almost no relationship between the Muslim and Christian students and teachers for almost fifteen years. This is truly sad, especially because, since the colonial days of the Dutch, the people of the islands of Maluku were known to be multi-religious and multi-cultural where interfaith harmony between villages was part of daily life, and well-known to the whole world.
For the last three years, The Asia Foundation has been working for Peace building with the Ambon Reconciliation and Mediation Center of the State Institute of Islamic Studies (ARMC IAIN), Ambon. The Programs have been focusing on creating teachers who can become agents of peace, religious tolerance, and harmony in schools. We call them peace makers. There are more than forty nine teachers from both religions from around thirty schools who have followed programs in peace education with all kinds of knowledge and skills needed – like multiculturalism, interfaith dialogue, value and peace education and live in (i.e. experiencing living in the homes and communities of people whose religions are other than their own). These Programs have been given mainly by ARMC IAIN Ambon with The Asia Foundation.
After three years of conducting these programs, The Asia Foundation has taken the initiative to work together with ARMC IAIN Ambon to gather again these forty nine “peace-maker” teachers to further ideas of interfaith, tolerance and harmony through a program for Tolerance and Peace Education conducted in World Interfaith Harmony Week (2015) with the theme “Love of God or the Good and Love of the Neighbor”. Using these two themes the document “A Common Word” is the focus of the festival and workshop of World Interfaith Harmony Week in the context of building peace on Ambon islands.