Violence erupts in Indonesia's Maluku province

The CARDI humanitarian aid consortium, of which the IRC is a member, has suspended its activities in the city of Ambon, in eastern Indonesia's Maluku province, following violent inter-religious clashes Sunday that left at least 14 people dead and 120 injured.
"We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Ambon," said a CARDI spokesperson today. "We hope that the situation quickly stabilizes and that the violence does not spread to other communities in the province."

The unrest was sparked by a demonstration by members of a Maluku separatist movement. The march, marking the 54th anniversary of the proclamation of a self-styled South Maluku Republic, deteriorated into street fights between Christians and Muslims.

Many homes and buildings in Ambon were torched, including an office of the United Nations. "Shooting and fighting continued today," said the CARDI spokesperson. "All international organizations are keeping a low profile until the situation calms." He said all CARDI staff members are fine.

Full-scale conflict in Maluku province -- the southern part of the Maluku archipelago where Ambon is the capital -- began in 1999 with a minor quarrel between a Muslim migrant and a local Christian. Fueled by underlying political and economic tensions, the initial clashes quickly took on religious undertones and sparked a wave of violence throughout the province. The conflict claimed an estimated 5,000 lives by the time a peace deal came into force in 2002.

CARDI runs education, environmental health, income-generation and infrastructure rehabilitation programs in conflict-affected communities in Maluku, where an estimated 180,000 people remain displaced.

With its headquarters in Jakarta, CARDI is active in four provinces affected by conflict in the country: Aceh, North Sulawesi, North Maluku and Maluku.