A lot of authority figures in Madura, Indonesia painted a picture of an angry intolerant populace of the people. When I asked then Sampang regent Noer Tjahja last year whether he would guarantee the Shiites families, displaced after a mob attack of their homes in Karang Gayam and Blu’uran villages, to be able to return to their land. He said that it was not an option. Noel was adamant that there was strong rejection from the community and that unless the Shiites ‘repent’ and convert to Sunni, “lives are at stake”.
For a year, the Shiites lived in a tennis indoor court turned refugee camp, until just before the Eid celebrations, a mob again harassed the Shiites, and the authorities trucked the refugees into a low-cost apartment complex in Sidoarjo, a city in East Java, outside of the island of Madura. Some 200 people who live from the field as tobacco farmers are forced to move to small flats far from their home town.
But the people proved those who campaign for relocation and segregation wrong, shattering the perception of ingrained intolerance between groups. Even though I am far away from home, I’m so happy to read reports in The Jakarta Post and The Jakarta Globe of reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites. The Jakarta Post reported that 50 Sunnis people, including those who participated in the attack, visited their Shiite neighbors and reconciled by signing a peace agreement.
The Jakarta Globe gave a thorough report of the peace process, showing the picture of the peace accord, which states “we have been tired with the animosity and we’re ready to live side by side, respect and love each other as taught by our esteemed Prophet Muhammad.”
The Globe quoted Hertasning Ichlas, lawyer of the Shia community that the Sunni people ” admitted that they had been tired of being provoked every week”.“They finally came to realize that this is only a political game, not a religious issue. They realize that reconciliation is the right Islamic way to solve it.” It seems now the authorities should not have any excuse for letting the Shiites to return to their homes, not when those they claim to speak on behalf of have embraced their neighbors back.
Admittedly, Shia leader Tajuk Muluk is still imprisoned for blasphemy and not one person has been held accountable for last years attack that killed two people. The one person who was arrested, Roisul Hukamah, Tajul’s brother who has personal vendetta against the former was set free of all charges. But just the fact that the two groups are willing to live side by side in peace is a cause for celebrations. Congratulations Sampang!