Indonesia Essay, Research Paper
*******************This was for an Anthropology Class***************************
The Spice Islands are home to Indonesians divided by religion. In January 1999 a civil war began between Christians and Muslims. Although more than 80 percent of the population is Muslim, the war began when a letter announcing Christian uprising was circulated amongst the Muslims. Although Indonesia s former corrupt President Suharto is no longer in office, the country is not benefiting as thought. The same ruler that was resented because of his strict policies is now missed due to his ability to cap social unrest.
The island of Java is the most populated of all the Indonesian islands and home to the city of Jakarta, the center of politics, finance, culture and communications in Indonesia. Indonesians are looking for democratic reform by cleaning up courts and banks. Suharto had run Indonesia based on tradition not what the country needed. To diffuse centralized power, wealth and political power needed to be spread out from Jakarta. However, many have lost hope fro this based on religious and ethnic strife and lack of equality many are looking to form independent nations.
In Indonesia, typically Christians hold the farming industry while Muslims run local shops and work in factories supporting the local economy. Christians feel they are being run around by Muslims. Their jobs are being taken from big timber and farming corporations and are not being let in on jobs, education and the exploitation of Borneo s natural resources.
Also, the Christians and the Muslims are governed by different sets of rules. Christians are tried by Indonesian law, while Muslims are governed by somewhat home-grown rules, causing more conflict and tension between the two opposing religions. Many Indonesians have flocked to the Muslim religion because they claim it gives them something to hold on to in the midst of their nation being ripped in two. Other claim it gives them a backlash against Western influence. Abdurrahman Wahid is now Indonesia s president and promises to unite the conflicting cultures and religions with respect for diversity and equal treatment. However, many see this as a weakness and a sign he is incapable of stopping the violence between the Christians and the Muslims.
Muslims are also beginning to develop a feeling of the Islamic culture as a fashion statement more than a religious belief from the views of outsiders. Many Muslims believe that their religion is growing mainstream and many of their fundamental beliefs are being lost along the way, creating a larger rift in their society.
Violence is prevalent in Indonesia amongst the Muslims and the Christians. Police armed with automatic weapons search travelers for knifes and guns in fear they will use them for power in the religious war. Rioters have taken over the cities and religious warfare is obvious with such groups as the militant Islamics who have named themselves Laskar Jihad. This group has vowed to cleanse the Christians. On the flip side, Muslims also live in fear with militant Christians physically attacking Muslim villages and worshippers going in and out of the place of worship, the Mosques. Their disputes have turned into blind hate and fundamentally become more cultural than religious.
Disputes over land boundaries and scarce natural resources are further fueling the fire within the two opposing religions. Some people of Indonesia think that it is time to put their personal demons between them and unite into one successful nation, under the rule of their newly democratically elected President, for the good of both groups of people. One peace seeker summed the social conflict by saying Indonesia would have to agree to change it s politics, economy, justice system, and educational system to create a whole new culture. He went on to say Indonesians have to want to change not, as in the days of rule under Suharto, because they are being ordered.
Dahbly, Tracy. National Geographic Indonesia p. 74 Vol. 1999 no.3, March 2001