Ella & Miska

Capture d’écran 2020-05-29 à 16.04.14.

Religion is very present in Indonesian society and the faithful are very devout. The situation in the Moluccan archipelago is very unusual: for centuries, Islam, which came from Java in the 15th century, and Protestantism, brought by the Dutch in the 17th century, coexisted in the Moluccas.

This archipelago could be a paradise had it not been for a bloody conflict that broke out between 1999 and 2004 between Christians and Muslims and that killed several thousand people. At the end of the fighting, villages had become divided by religion. 

 

In Ambon, the capital of the Moluccas in the far east of Indonesia, Jacky is one of the main architects of peace in the archipelago. With the support of dedicated teachers, and despite the segregation that still exists, he encourages the young generations, separated by conflict, to meet and to share. In this way, unique friendships between Christian and Muslim communities, like that between two young girls, Ella and Miska, are born.

In her neighbourhood and at school, Ella doesn't mix with Muslims. And Miska doesn't spend time with any Christians, and she regrets that. This 13-year-old girl is fully conscious of the aftermath of the past conflict and recognises that many wounds remain unhealed. She already understands that tomorrow's peace must be built hand-in-hand with the other.

Based on the tradition of Pela-Gandong [1] , a shared local cultural tradition, weekends are organised to bring together children and teenagers from different communities around common activities. This transmission through education is punctuated by three major encounters every year on themes of interest to young people (sport, poetry, dance, etc.).

These meetings help to break down the barriers that still exist between Muslims and Christians in this archipelago and help avoid the underlying prejudices, still very present in the collective imagination, from coming to the fore. It is also in the hope that their students will, in turn, influence their parents, that these teachers invest in these weekend workshops in an effort also to break down barriers outside the school walls. 

 

During our stay, Ella, a Christian student, and Miska, a Muslim student, told us how they met on one of these weekends, how after a short time, after discovering how each one practiced her faith within her community, their prejudices faded away and they came together through dancing and teenage conversations. 

 [1] Indonesian tradition that formalises a privileged relationship between two villages, who undertake to help each other in times of difficulty.