IOM assists thousands fleeing violence in the Moluccas
According to those who managed to escape, thousands of civilians were left stranded in Ambon. Passengers who had boarded the ferry in Papua said they could hear shots and explosions as they waited anxiously off shore for the mainly Christian Ambonese to reach the ship.
Already coping with more than 100,000 East Timorese refugees, the governor of West Timor asked IOM to provide transportation for the displaced from Ambon. IOM buses and trucks took the newly arrived from the port of Kupang to hastily set up shelters on the grounds of the Christian University of Kupang and the Youth Christian Community Centre.
Since the conflict between Muslim and Christian communities erupted in January of 1999, hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes and more than 4,000 people have lost their lives.
Press reports indicate that the roots of the conflict are not so much in religion as in a whole range of local disputes between the different communities, which were ignored or suppressed during the three-decade rule of President Suharto.
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