The war in Ambon and the wider Maluku islands started for a variety of reasons. But it quickly boiled down to a question of identity, of Christians versus Muslims, as more than 5,000 people were killed and 500,000 were displaced from their homes between 1999 and 2002.
The religious passions and communal hatred stirred up in the war put a question mark over Indonesia’s moves to build a democracy after 40 years of dictatorship. Could Indonesia’s Muslim majority coexist with Christians and other religious minorities without an authoritarian hand on the tiller?
Sitting in Ambon’s Joas Coffee House 13 years after the fighting ended, the answer is clear: Yes. And sitting across from me is Jacky Manuputty, one member of a brave group of local community leaders, Muslim and Christian alike, who have helped heal the wounds of war and today act as the first responders of harmony when the fragile peace looks threatened.