City of peace

by J. Ron BylerRon Byler

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. – Psalm 146: 3

There are more Muslims in Indonesia than in any other country in the world. And while the large majority of Indonesia’s Muslims are moderate and opposed to violence, fundamentalist Islam and terrorism also exist. In fact, in Solo, Indonesia where I was recently, there is a history of violence. Most terrorist acts in Indonesia since 1999, including a bombing of a church last month, can be linked to Islamic teachers in this city. There is a fear among many in the Muslim community that Solo is a recruiting grounds for terrorism.

The Forum for Peace Across Religions and Groups (FPLAG) has been working for peace for more than a dozen years. Mennonite Central Committee, through its connection with the Mennonite churches in Indonesia, has been partnering with FPLAG since its beginning. The Forum began when Mennonites and other Protestant groups, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, followers of Confucius and others from traditional religions agreed to work together to distribute relief aid after the city was devastated by riots in 1999.

When the relief work was finished, the group agreed to stay together as a forum to work on ways of reducing tension and potential conflict in their city. Peace is a seed, says one leader. “You need to spread it out where you are,” he says. FPLAG leaders would like to start a peace institute where people can come together, even leaders from the more radical groups, to talk about their problems.

The group sponsors conflict transformation training in strategic neighborhoods known for having high levels of tension. Going forward, FPLAG wants to build on their growing influence in the city as peace builders. They want to collaborate with government groups and others who are working for peace. “As long as we can talk, we can avoid violence,” says one leader.

In the city of Solo, people of many faiths are refusing to put their trust in princes and in violence. Instead, they are working together to become a city of peace. May God’s Shalom be present there.


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