Between 1999 and 2002 religion-related riots took place on the Maluku islands in Indonesia. After the first clash, in January 1999, the conflict disseminated rapidly along religious lines. Religious language was used in order to understand what was going on, inscribing the conflict into specific religious traditions. However, using religious language to understand the conflict also framed the conflict into an essentialist religious battle with an important religious meaning. In this article I will explore the possibility to understand the religious framing of this conflict as a religious variety of what Vamik Volkan has coined ‘chosen trauma’. Applying this term to the situation in Ambon, elucidates the impact of religious language on violent conflicts.