Cultural Solutions to Religious Conflicts? The Revival of Tradition in the Moluccas, Eastern Indonesia

In: Asian Journal of Social Science


One of the most violent conflicts of the post-Suharto era took place in the Moluccas, Eastern Indonesia, from 1999 until 2003. Due to a strategic mobilisation process, it was mainly fought out between Christians and Muslims. After the conflict, local actors in the Moluccas hoped to build up sustainable peace through the revival of traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences and enable harmonious living together. Taking up these local voices or voices that claim to be local, this paper wants to discuss the option of a cultural approach to conflict solution and to reflect on the reconciliatory potential of the revival of tradition. The prominent village alliance system in the Central Moluccas called pela serves as an example how 'traditional' mechanisms were used in order to foster reconciliation. This paper also analyses challenges and problems of the revival-reconciliation interplay in order to reveal both the integrative, as well as the exclusivist, character of revived traditions that are supposed to overcome religious differences.

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