Maluku sectarian conflict
Sectarian conflict in the Maluku Islands
Maluku Islands
The Maluku Islands are an archipelago that is part of Indonesia, and part of the larger Maritime Southeast Asia region. Tectonically they are located on the Halmahera Plate within the Molucca Sea Collision Zone...

of Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

 between 1999 and 2002 killed thousands of people and displaced over 1/2 million.

In the late 1990s, Indonesia was experiencing the devastating economic and political effects of the East Asian Financial Crisis
East Asian financial crisis
The Asian financial crisis was a period of financial crisis that gripped much of Asia beginning in July 1997, and raised fears of a worldwide economic meltdown due to financial contagion....

 which affected Indonesia more than any other country. The army, formerly at the centre of the political system under the recently resigned Suharto, was disaffected with the democratisation process. Citizens and the media were confident in speaking their minds after three decades of restrictions under Suharto's New Order administration. In 1999, the Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

 and Idul Fitri celebrations coincided. The 1999 vote in East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

 to secede from the Indonesian republic gave inspiration to RMS (Republic of South Maluku) agitators. Further, plans were in place to split the single province of Maluku into two separate provinces (see Maluku and North Maluku
North Maluku
North Maluku is a province of northeastern Indonesia. It covers the northern part of the Maluku Islands, which are split between it and the province of Maluku. Maluku province used to cover the entire group...

) with each given additional powers. Particularly in Ambon
Ambon Island
Ambon Island is part of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. The island has an area of , and is mountainous, well watered, and fertile. Ambon Island consists of 2 territories: The main city and seaport is Ambon , which is also the capital of Maluku province and Maluku Tengah Ambon Island is part of the...

 where the Christian-Muslim ratio was evenly balanced, each religious community could see the advantage of scaring away the other.

A January 1999 dispute between a Christian bus driver and Muslim youth descended into inter-communal riots. Many islands suffered disturbances with villagers killed, and buildings were torched. In Ambon and Tobelo
Tobelo is a town and also a district on the eastern Indonesian island of Halmahera. It is the capital of the regency of North Halmahera, part of the province of North Maluku. The city was formalised as the capital of North Halmahera in the district elections held in 2004...

, Muslims were widely perceived as the initial victims, and the Laskar Jihad
Laskar Jihad
Laskar Jihad , was an Islamist and anti-Christian Indonesian militia, which was founded and led by Jafar Umar Thalib. At present, the militia is believed to have disbanded.-History:...

 Islamist militia came to Maluku to "protect" local Muslims. Their "Holy War" degenerated into revenge attacks on Christian communities, thereby exacerbating the ongoing violence, and giving Muslims the upper hand in the conflict.

In the following two years, an estimated 9,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands had to flee their towns. Much of Ambon City was destroyed, as were many villages across the Maluku Islands. Some regions, including Ambon City, became segregated into distinct Muslim and Christian zones. In February 2002, the Malino II Accord
Malino II Accord
The Malino II Accord was signed on 13 February 2002 as a settlement between warring parties in the Maluku sectarian conflict that commenced in 1999 in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. ....

 was signed, calling for mutual respect and disarmament. Conditions improved with Laksar Jihad's decisions to disband and leave Ambon later that year.

The plan to split the province into two was implemented in late 1999. The new province of North Maluku
North Maluku
North Maluku is a province of northeastern Indonesia. It covers the northern part of the Maluku Islands, which are split between it and the province of Maluku. Maluku province used to cover the entire group...

 incorporates the area between Morotai
Morotai Island Regency is a regency of North Maluku province, Indonesia, located on Morotai Island. The population was 54,876 in 2007.-History:...

 and Sula
Sula Islands
The Sula Islands are a group of islands in North Maluku in Indonesia. Its three main islands are Mangole, Sanae and Taliabu, with smaller islands Lifamatola and Seho. It is administered as Kepulauan Sula Regency...

 and its capital is Ternate. It is predominantly Muslim, although it has Christian enclaves including in northern Halmahera. Maluku Province includes the arc from Buru
Buru is the third largest island within Maluku Islands of Malay Archipelago. It lies between the Banda Sea to the south and Seram Sea to the north, west of Ambon and Seram islands. The island belongs to Maluku province of Indonesia and includes the Buru and South Buru regencies...

 and Seram to Wetar
The tropical island of Wetar belongs to the Indonesian province of Maluku and is the largest island of the Barat Daya Islands . It lies east of the Lesser Sunda Islands, which include nearby Alor and Timor, but it is politically part of the Maluku Islands...

 with its capital in Ambon
Ambon City
Ambon is the main city and seaport of Ambon Island, and is the capital of Maluku province of Indonesia. It is one of the largest cities in eastern Indonesia....


Theories as to the cause of the violence includes the influence of outside forces, including one theory that supporters of Suharto within the armed forces may have been responsible.

Violence erupted again on September 11, 2011 after a false message was spread among Muslims. The false message claimed that a Muslim driver of a motorcycle-taxi had been tortured to death by a group of Christians.

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