Children of Conflict Find Resolution through the arts

The Jakarta Post, page 2

Irfan Ramli recalls how he fled his home with two sister and mother, who was six month pregnant at the time, at 3:30 a.m. in 1999. He was 10 when his hometown Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, was embroiled in conflict that saw Muslims and Christians killing one another.

Irfan said at the Makassar International Writers Festival 2017 on Thursday that he and his family waited weeks for the moment. They slept with jackets and socks on, and shoes by the bed. They ready to leave anytime.

From the hill, Irfan saw his home and entire village coming under siege and burned down by Christians. He had grown up in a mixed neighborhood and school and had many Christian friends. But for next three years living in the shelters, he only had Muslims friends. The experience left him with a deep scar as a child.

Irfan was the screenwriter of the award-winning 2014 movie Cahaya Dari Timur: Beta Maluku about children from the Muslim and Christian quarters in Ambon training together on soccer team, even as their parents were still hating on another. In the story, the team went on to win the national championship that saw both to former warring camps celebrating together.

Irfan is one of three children of past conflicts to speak at the festival session on narrations about conflict and resolution discussing how they have turned to the arts to create a common space for people who had been locked in conflicts to come to terms and heal the trauma.

The other two speakers were movie producer Andi Burhamzah, who lived through the bloody anti-Chinese riot in Makassar in 1998, and Erni Aladjai, a journalist and novelist, who comes from Banggai Laut regency in South Sulawesi, an area that saw two villagers engaging in a fight over the right to host the subdistrict office, also in 1998.

Andi Burhamzah, who has produced several award-winning short movies, said he missed his Chinese-Indonesian buddy and neighbor when his hometown Makassar was embroiled with anti-Chinese riot. And later he learned that his friend had moved and settled in Jakarta. The two buddies are now working on movie related to the riot, presumably based on their own personal experience, as Andi said it would be about children growing up in conflict.

Erni delved into the Banggai Laut Isles old tradition known as Paupe, of reciting verses of peace, and organized a residency for children form the conflicting village to learn the art together. She blamed modernity for the loss of space that once had brought people from different islands together.

All three speakers found that most people who been in conflict were reluctant to talk about the horrible experience because of fears of opening old wounds. But they agree these should be discussed to bring about a resolution.

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