Addressing communal violence requires a strategic collaboration of diverse actors in the state (government) and society (civil groupings). Without state-society synergy, attempts at peacebuilding can be fruitless. The problem is that some factions within the state (“uncivil government”) and society (“uncivil society”) also contribute to exacerbating tensions and violence, making peacebuilding processes an uneasy task.
Religion plays an ambivalent role. When misused, it can be a source of conflict and violence. Otherwise, it can be a resource for peacebuilding and reconciliation. In the Indonesian context, religion has played a role in both violence-building and peace-building. Accordingly, it is important to not neglect it’s roles or contributions.
In some parts of Indonesia, the role of interfaith peacebuilding, particularly that initiated by grassroots interfaith dialogue activists, is significant to maintaining interreligious harmony and healthy interreligious relations. Equally important, my research findings show that significant contributions have been made by female grassroots peacebuilding practitioners and interfaith activists in efforts to establish peace and harmony even during the massive communal riots in Ambon, Poso, and other locations in the past.
Grassroots peacebuilding is important because grassroots people are the “foot soldiers” of any conflict, tension, and violence in post-Suharto Indonesia. During the Suharto era, state violence dominated, but since his dictatorial government collapsed in 1998, violence has become more nuanced and varied. With few exceptions, mass/collective violence takes place at the grassroots level between communities.
Accordingly, dealing with contemporary grassroots violence requires grassroots peacebuilding. Grassroots peace activists and practitioners work tirelessly to reconcile conflicting groups and preventing tensions or violence from escalating, thus keeping sustainable peace in their areas and societies.
In Indonesia, it is important not to ignore the power of faith, women, and grassroots action. It is also important to work strategically and synergically between actors in the state and society. Last but not least, peacebuilders need to approach and involve “violence-builders” in the peace process.
Note: this essay was previously published by Peace News