Friday, August 29, 2008

Conflict Trasnformation

CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION: Some Challenges for Theological Schools
By El. Anna Marsiana

In this workshop I am not going to talk about conflict transformation in a high level. I have recognized that the important role of we, the Church, Theological Schools, and theologians can play in the high level. But there are many who have talked about that topic . At the same time ,I think we have to admit that mostly we will not come up with either a very well-thought concept and idea neither theological reflection of conflict transformation nor make a strong statement and call to end conflict . Or we could but it stops on that point. n When we will go back home , we felt that we have fulfilled our duty but in fact not because social conflicts in smaller scale will continuously hunt our eyes. And, we are helpless , can we transcend from this feeling in trapped helplessness ? I am speaking from my experience.

I am also not going to deal with the technical procedures on how to deal with conflict resolutions/transformation for two reasons: this workshop is not meant for that and besides, I am not the expert on the area. I am someone whose concern is on the issue of conflict transformation and I am attempting to the post probable extent in the work that I am doing.

This presentation , on my part is only a small effort of how to put together my concern on the conflict transformation issue and the experiences and perspectives from the field working in grassroot level along side with teaching some subjects at a theological school/seminary.
A Culture of Violence??

A peace worker from the Philippines, was sent to Papua for a peace building exposure in 2005. She wrote that she was shocked to learn that the local cultures of the number of tribes in Papua unless the same number of lives has been avenged from the offending group, the killing continues. (Carmen L. Villasenor: 1)

Often the situation becomes more complicated: one group forms a coalition with a second group and conflict with one member of the coalition results in violent reactions from various other smaller groups in another coalition. In the process, numerous lives are lost, bringing suffering to the tribal members. Worse, the conflict and tradition of war or killing the enemy is passed on to the next generation.

There are more than a dozen conflict outbreaks that took place in Papua only for the last one year. In October 2007, there are series of conflicts and outbreaks, again, took place on this land. I noted three recently incidents to mention some. First is between Cindeli and Banti Tribes in Timika, then, between Dani and Amungme tribes, and the third is between Kwamki Lama Bawah and Kwamki Lama Atas. The Timika Police is quoted saying that basically the police cannot do anything about it. As already noted by Villasenor, the police too says that “The fight will stop once the number of killed people are balance from both parties.” What can you expect to take place next when even the police is helplessly saying that there is nothing can be done as to stop the fights??

My personal experience in living among clan society is not that distressful and perhaps this worthwhile discussing.

When I married my husband it gave me the opportunity to have a closer look on how powerful a clan system can be. My husband comes from a remote village with a once a week marketday . And what you anticipate to witness during this weekly market is not only daily stocks or some new items from the city but also clan-fights. There is a long history of how an outburst open conflict between two clans in the village erupts . When members of both clans meet in the market, a small and trivial incident can trigger up a big outbreak. Once, I got to involve myself –voluntarily– in trying to eliminate the chance for the conflict to escalate and to prevent it from happening again. But I have to admit, I failed to perform “my duty”. It was in 1999.

As I wandered around the island, I witnessed more communities with similar situation and character of conflicts; endless clan based violent conflict. The conflict has entered into a vicious cycle. Then, I talked to the people, and the response is that they do not see anything wrong with such vicious cycle. Everything is perceived as normal, part of their life. An important question: is violent conflict has become a culture for this society?

Unfortunately, the Church failed to deal with this conflict in constructively. After three years working on the island, I have come to realized deeply how powerless the Church is vís a vís to the clan system. The BNKP Church in Nias, for instance , being the oldest Church on the island, had to accept the fact the clan system defined the church history on the island. From one synod, BNKP, due to some conflicts, has become 5 synods since 1990s up to date: AMIN, ONKP, BNKPI, BKPN. One easily to expect more brand new of the same people will come into being every time some conflicts occur in the Church. The Church has failed to become an agent of transformation of the conflict, but on the contrary allowed to be overruled by the clan system. This has really brought me to think of how to integrate the issue in the three subjects I am teaching at the small theological seminary on the island.

What is happening with the tribal community such as in Papua and Nias, Indonesia, and most probably other tribal communities in other parts of the world? Are they really living in a culture of conflict and violence instead of culture of peace? If so, how can we transform such culture into culture of peace? Can we still find culture of peace in such community? These are some question I am trying to discuss here.

Understanding Conflict and Its Character, Better:

Many articles have been written in the area of conflict transformation. It is indeed difficult to avoid redundancy . However, not to repeat too much what have been said by others, I would like to emphasize a few things.

First, under the term conflict, one understands the relationship between two or more dependent parties in which at least one party regards this relationship as negative and respectively assess and pursuit opposed interests and needs. Both parties are convinced to be right. However, in conflict resolutions, we also understand conflict positively, as necessary component of social change. The Chinese word for crisis consists of both danger and opportunity. But whether we understand Chinese or not, if one wants to transform violence potential of a conflict into a constructive positive energy for a social change, then one has to believe to the two sided chances a conflict is holding: destruction and construction.

Whether we like it or not, as said earlier, conflict is part of life, and is something necessary for a social change. The point is to solve conflicts in a peaceful and constructive manner. Especially in phases of profound socio economical changes and political transformation, conflicts can result in an overall social crisis and self-destructive escalations, and always then when the reallocation of life prospects and participation possibilities of various groups are involved.

To say that conflict is indeed normal and in fact should be perceived as normal and part of daily life and even necessary is different from taking conflict for granted as a culture; especially conflict that has taken violence as its only face. Taking conflict for granted in its violence form will only allow the corrupting power of conflict to enter in our life and block the positive energy (i.e., opportunity) of conflict that brings about change to take shape.

However, it is easy to understand the fact that conflict is potentially both negative and positive and the fact that we can manage and manipulate it to allow only the positive energy to influence our life when we are outsiders. But once we are involved in the conflict, it is difficult to see conflict that way. It is easier for us to either ignore it (the fact that conflict is there) or simply take it for granted (that the conflict just has to be there, the way it is, no mater how violent it is).

Second, in a society overwhelmed by the value of harmony, a community that more open to conflict is usually seen as negative. Equally a person who is often seen as involved in a conflict is bad and somehow should be avoided. In that sense , there is a demand to develop a theology of conflict to really encourages people to accept conflict as fact and perceive it as an opportunity for positive transformation instead of a failure of harmony. . It is about time to re-think constructively the people as objects/subjects of harmony. A starting point is to acknowledge that people possess creativity and ability of m how much s/he can transform a conflict into an opportunity or a culture of violence into a culture of peace and not from how much s/he can avoid a conflict.

Third, it is important to understand the root cause of a conflict. It is true that clanship often leads into conflict but should not necessarily into violence. In my understanding it is the poverty and the remoteness of the area that isolates the community that invites violence to come in to a conflict and become the only face of a conflict or the only way to deal with conflict.

One does not need a complicated theory to be able to see that poverty would easily lead a conflict to take the form of violence. Due to poverty people can easily to provoke to do anything for small money or simply willing to do anything without thinking further simply to fill their hungry stomach.

Resources, information, values, interest, relationships and structures contribute in developing and shaping a conflict. At the same time whether a conflict will escalate or subdue and disappear and be replaced by peace is also determined by those six factors. A conflict caused by single factor is more manageable compared to that of by multi factors. A conflict about information or even resources is still relatively easy to solve than that of about values. (Craig Arendse, Robert A. Evans & John Nielsen: 2000) The graphic below shows us the cycle of conflict.

Using my experience working in the grassroot level , I am reading the wheel as followings:
a. Equal, fair, and just distribution of resources is very important and in fact a basic principle to prevent an unhealthy conflict in a society and at the same time a basic principle to refer to when making effort for a conflict transformation.
b. Information should not be controlled by certain people or group of people to avoid distortions. (Apply the check and re-check and balance of information when dealing with conflict resolution).
c. Distorted information can in return destroy the good values in the society. Once a good values in the society is destroyed, a conflict is deteriorating and is coming closer to violence.
d. Different values create different interests and needs and different ways of obtaining them.
e. Conflicting interests and needs on the one hand and conflicting the ways of obtaining the two influence and shape the relationship.
f. Once a relationship is broken, the people are divided even more.
g. Finally the structure plays a very important role in either deteriorating the conflict or ease and solve it in positive manner.

One does not have to start reading the wheel from the resources neither compartmentalized them , but rather from any of these part are intersecting ..Each part can equally be the dominant factor in a conflict and therefore just has to be considered and addressed equally adequate and referred to from time to time. The chronological formation of the 6 elements also may change depends on the context.

Unfortunately in a tribal community, due to many factors like poverty and remoteness, usually the six elements come together and contribute in forming a complex conflict. The social structure in clan community for example is usually very hierarchical, the chief of the clan or the tribe is controlling almost everything especially the information and the resources, and is usually imposing her/his (but unfortunately usually is his) interest and values. And in a remote area, such practice is hardly opposed by the people for the practice is the only practice known to the people due to the remoteness that has isolated them from other practices and values.

Four out of the six villages where I decided to establish rehabilitation projects on Nias are prone to conflict with a destructive tendency . And three of the four have the similar pattern: a rich person/man and his family and clan is dominating and controlling everything in the village and trying to maintain his status quo and a person from economically promising family is trying to challenge his domination indirectly by making noise in almost every chance. As mentioned earlier, each party is usually supported by some people/ families from the same clans or lines. Those who supported the former usually because they have been made indebted to the former, while those who supported the latter usually because they have had no chance of getting support from the former and therefore are hoping to get something from the latter someday. The pattern is very strong and has become a kind of vicious cycle of violence in one village. I will come back to this village latter in this paper as I am making this village as a short of laboratory for my project. My hypothesis is that the rehabilitation project, when done in correct manner using conflict sensitive and gender sensitive approach will transform the conflict into a challenge and then an opportunity for a more democratic, open, economically and socially better society.

Conflict Transformation
Measures for conflict resolution are an attempt to regulate, prevent violence and end the manner in which the conflict is being settled. As stated earlier, social conflicts are unavoidable when various players come together. In functioning law governed states there are institutionalised conflict resolution mechanisms that in the ideal case can prevent conflicts from erupting into violence. On the political level, for example this includes the procedure of consultation in which a government bill is submitted to various interested parties for comment and on the social levels the civil and legal penal codes. The signing of MoU between the Free Aceh movement and the Indonesian (Jakarta) Government, for instance is but an example. A conflict resolution in the high level like that of in Aceh is very important but is not enough without serious effort to bring it down into very concrete level for the grassroot people. In the grassroot level, the conflict resolution should really be a concrete effort of conflict transformation that leads to concrete result, especially in the area of socio-economy.

For many people, the term for conflict transformation is sometimes only used in exchangeable with conflict resolution. Having to work in a community formerly torn apart by civil war like Aceh or in a community where clan-based conflicts often erupt into violence, I look at conflict transformation as an effort beyond just a conflict resolution. Conflict transformation targets constructive solutions from which all involved may profit in sustainable way. Where the community having benefited from the constructive solutions, it is expected that they will in return sustain the transformation process on voluntary basis. As it is called, conflict transformation, it means transforming a community torn a part by conflict (social, political, religious) into a community where the members not only have agreed to stop fighting each other and be reconciled, but also agreed to move beyond “cease fire”; all respected members should also agree to start a new way of life where the caring and sharing, tolerant and respect, equality and democracy are the values they live in; where all members are profited socially and economically; where justice and peace are enforced and felt by all respected members in the community. When the conflict is structural, It is the role of the government or the authority to guarantee for justice and peace to be fully enforced first by the authority, and then by the people.. Only then can the other values slowly take place in the daily life of the community. But peace and justice for whom because what is peace and justice identified/imposed by the government can be detrimental to concept of the sense of peace and justice to the concept the people. It is indeed a big work. But it is not something impossible to do.

ATESEA and Some Challenges on the Conflict Transformation

We need to appreciate some efforts different organizations including some theological schools have made in the area of conflict resolutions/transformation. Some have decided to work on the conceptual level, and some on the practical and technical level. Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for example in cooperation with the Plowshares institute, USA, have opted to work on the more practical and technical level: providing training for conflict resolutions & empowering for reconciliation. I myself have gone to the Centre for Study and Promotion of Peace – Duta Wacana University in 1999-2000 to learn the skills and techniques for rather formal procedures on a conflict resolution. And I must say that it was very useful for me. But as I said earlier, I am working with people formerly torn apart by civil war and with communities continuously either intimidated or torn apart by social and structural violence. Slowly I started to learn that my knowledge and formal-technical skill on conflict resolution/transformation is not adequate to deal with the problem. I learned that not all conflict can be resolved using the formal procedures.

Being among the grassroot people on the one hand and teaching at a theological seminary on the other hand, immediately I recognized challenges. In the grassroot level, we need to think of something more simple, practical, informal, sustainable, and belonging to the people. This means we need to come back to the people and find something from among themselves, and promote it back to them. I believe this way is more effective as the people own it. As this is a big work to do, I think here comes the role a theological institute can play. In my understanding there are at least three issues that we need to develop and promote them more. I am saying here the need to develop and promote them more for I know many institute have started in developing and promoting them. These three issues are: 1) Developing and promoting the culture of peace and local wisdom on conflict transformation, 2) Developing and promoting the constructive role of women, 3) Commitment as to promote theology of conflict and integrated it in all subjects being taught in the theological institutions.

Exploring and promoting back the culture of peace & the Local Wisdom on Conflict Transformation
I believe that a culture of peace does exist in our world. And without one I doubt that we can still talk about conflict transformation. I believe in the premise that there is culture of peace in every local community. It might takes different forms like culture of tolerant, culture of caring and sharing, tradition or local wisdom on how to deal with conflict, and so forth. Elise Boulding describes very well in her writing about what can and might form a culture of peace. I completely agree with her that culture of peace is like “a mosaic of varied ingredients: historical memories of peaceful peoplehood, teachings and practices of communities of faith on gentleness, compassion, forgiveness and the inward discipline of reflection and prayers; ways families care for another and nurture the next generation; economic behavior that deals carefully with earth’s resources and is oriented to human need and human sharing; forms of governance that ensure justice for all; and means of dealing with: conflicts, differences, strangers –those who are other—in problem solving, reconciling manner” (Judy Zimmerman Herr and Robert Herr: 1998: 95).

Where is the culture of peace in society like that of Papua and Nias I mentioned in this paper, or that of similar situations in the parts of the world? That is our duty to re-discover and promote it. Conflict has taken violence as its only form in different outbreaks, it makes many noises. In return it attracts our attention more; in return it buries the already hidden culture of peace even deeper. If we follow Boulding’s description on the culture of peace, we have to go deeper into different elements and aspect in the society, from how they deal with the daily life to oral and written literatures known to the community, from the bed stories they tell to their children to the moral values passed on from generation to generation through their traditional ceremonies, and so forth. We might find some contradicting practices; the conflict between the deeply hidden culture of peace and the emerging apparently new culture of violence. But immediately I see some problems.

First, while I believe that the culture of peace exists in every local culture, I also have witnessed and am continuously witnessing that many different forms of culture of peace are slowly disappearing. I will cite two true examples here of how the values that form culture of peace are slowly replaced by non-constructive values.

One is from my memory of my childhood, and one is about a well known city of Yogyakarta in Indonesia.

First story: The pager-mangkok community, a community of caring and sharing
I grew up in small village of a small town, part of Central Java Province. I could still recall that at that time people of different beliefs and religions lived in a peaceful co-existent, side by side. We knew we were different, but somehow we knew too that at the same time we were not different.
We were living in a simple house and having simple life as our neighbors were. Unlike today, our houses at that time were exposed to each other. No walls or fence, (Jv. pager) were built up surrounding our houses to prevent people from seeing through the inside of our houses: the contents and the activities inside the houses. Rather, it was common that in front of each house, the people either made “bok” (a bench made of cement-bricks) or put a “lincak” (a bench made of bamboo). When the night was still young or during full-moon night, people, men and women alike, would sit on one of the benches, exchanged stories and foods too.
My mother would repeatedly tell me that ‘it is better to live in a house surrounded with pager mangkok (fence of bowls) rather than in a house surrounded by pager tembok (walls made of bricks)’. On top of the bok-head, my mother always put “kendi”, a terracotta water jar, full of drinking water every morning. Sometimes she asked me to have it checked in the afternoon as we might need to fill the jar with more drinking water. The idea is that passers by are invited to feel free to stop by anytime and to fulfill their thirst after making some journeys. Sometimes a passer by would shout out to us telling that the jar is empty. Then my mum would refill it, and usually some conversations would take place between my mum and the passer by. They exchanged stories from about daily life to some social-political news and even analysis.

Today transport technology has replaced the walk, and so has the bottled water replaced the water in the terracotta jar. And so are unknowingly, the caring and sharing values that invite open and living dialogue are slowly replaced by the economic and profit oriented values. For sure we cannot just romantize it now. The context and the society have changed. We cannot bring this old “ritual” back to this so-called modern society. But I insist that we need to and we have to bring such story up to the surface and let the people to talk about it again and again. Once the personal memory becomes a communal memory, the next steps as to promote the culture back are much easier. Besides, personally I believe, basically the values have not entirely gone yet. As they are actually rooted deeply in the life of the people in that village, somehow they must still be there. They just need a new media that fits to the today society. And here comes the challenge for ATESEA and all theological schools as to address the issue. Otherwise, this wonderful form of culture of peace will finally really be buried deeply and entirely forgotten by the people.

The second story I am going to share with you here is in my opinion calling for more serious attention.

The second story: Yogyakarta, the community of respect and tolerant
I came to this city, around 18 years back, and had the privilege to experience living in there. Immediately I fell in love with this city and its people. Immediately you could feel that the people were just simple, warm hearted, honest through their bottom of their hearts. They were easy to offer help to even strangers without hesitation. They respected differences and were living in harmony with people of different ethnic groups, religious beliefs, cultures, and languages.
Many people share the same impression I had about Yogya. I just met young intellectual who shared with me the same feeling and opinion I had. She spent 8 years in Yogyakarta, and finished her under-graduate and post-graduate studies there. She confessed that Yogyakarta has changed her a lot; from a very narrow-minded person and a Muslim fundamentalist to become a very broad-minded and tolerant person. This woman is from West Nusa Tenggara where Muslim is the dominant factor in many aspects. She told me that this is also very true with many friends of her. What a transformation! With such big change she had experience, she came to work on a remote island where 98% of the population is Christian. And she continues repeating the stories… That way she is extending the transformation she once experienced.
Most of what I have mentioned earlier is still true today. But some changes have started to call for our serious attention. Starting some three years ago or so, I started to see houses with a notice, written in capital: BOARDING HOUSE, FOR MUSLIM ONLY! My heart is beating faster when I read that. And now is even faster as I find more and more notices of similar content every year, in area where you are not supposed to judge people based on your religions and beliefs like that of the surrounding area of well-known university of Gajah Mada. My heart is beating faster not because I am by chance a non-Muslim. No!! Not at all.

What can one expect as what to come next when religious beliefs have started to become an issue to receive somebody as a boarder in your house? And take note of this fact: in a community formerly known as the best example for a community where respect and tolerance are among the highest values to hold to?

It was good to learn that I was not the only person concerned about this new phenomenon in Yogyakarta. A couple of months ago some intellectuals have come together in Jogjakarta and called for a conference on the issue. I also know that there are two universities that have played significant role in term of religious dialogue in Yogyakarta: one is Duta Wacana Christian Univesity –member of ATESEA– and one is IAIN Sunan Kalijaga (an Islamic institute. But I wonder if they are aware of the phenomenon and how serious this in shaping the character of the city, the people, and the community in the future.

Secondly, I believe that allowing a local wisdom to deal with the social, religious or even political conflict in local level is always better if not the best rather than imposing entirely new concept complex program of conflict transformation. Many times either we just do not know how to create a space for such local wisdom to be instrumentalized or we just lack of patience as to let it to take place. Again, just like the other forms of culture of peace, in a society overwhelmed by violent conflicts such local wisdom usually is also deeply buried by many different forms of violence. Worse is that when the authority/ the government in the name of “preserving a local culture” has taken its most shallow form and formalized it. In away we kill the power of the local wisdom and turn it into just a performance. I will also give you a true example for each. One is the story shared by a friend, Max Ediger in one small workshop as part of our effort collecting stories that promotes the culture of peace in Asia. He had the chance to visit East Timor during the time of chaos, shortly after its independence from Indonesia and join with a task force on the conflict transformation. The story is on the one hand a beautiful story of how local wisdom in one village in East Timor (now Timor Leste) had worked on conflict transformation, but on the hand is a story that tells how we easily fail to see the power of a local wisdom and belittling it. Here is the story he shared for this meeting.

While visiting East Timor, the need for reconciliation between villagers who had earlier joined the militias and the people whom they had abused during their time in power, was brought up often. Some foreign organizations working the country had designed rather complex programs to deal with this on a large scale. It was a Pakistani member of the UN police force who put it into perspective for us. He related that in one village three members of a militia returned to their old village after spending some time in exile in West Timor. Strong feelings immediately emerged because these three men had beaten some of their neighbors, and had burned down a number of homes including the village meeting hall. The village members all came together to hold a trial. The three men had no option but to admit to their crime since everyone in the village new them and had witnessed their behavior. After hearing their confessions, the elders spoke up. “A crime like this must be punished. There must be justice.
Fearing the worst, the three hung their heads in fear. Then the elders continued. “You have destroyed our homes and our meeting hall. We have already collected the materials to rebuild these buildings. You must each rebuild the homes you are responsible for burning, and then you must rebuild our meeting hall.”
Quickly the three men set to work. They worked hard and the villagers watched them closely to see if they would do a good job or not. In time all of the building has been rebuilt.
Once again the elders called a meeting. First they collected a small amount of money from each villager, and with that money they bought a cow that was slaughtered and the meat prepared for a feast. When all was ready, all of the villagers gathered around the food. “You have paid for your crimes,” the elders said. “Now let us share this meal together so that forgiveness can be complete.”
The crime was paid for and forgiven. This, the Pakistani said, is the traditional way of solving problems here, and it is best for outsiders to stay away.

In his sharing Max Ediger told us that the introduction of other models, simply confuses the issue, or more the people who have come well-prepared with a big concept and complex program on conflict resolution. Such idea must have not even flashed in their minds.
Imagine if we just ignore such a beautiful wisdom and then impose the entirely foreign concept of conflict transformation. Not only that we could not expect a maximum result but also we would also spend lots of resources only to destroy the local capacity of the people in dealing with conflict in constructive manner.
Such local wisdom is also found among the people of Papua. The avenged killings are still very common to be found among the tribes, but they also have a mechanism in dealing with such fights. The local tradition is called upacara bakar batu or bakar batu ceremony.

The bakar batu (literally means: burning stone) ceremony is commonly known and practiced by many tribes from Numfor, Yapen and the surrounding tribes in the up-north to Dani, Moni, Yali, Ngalum, Amungme, Ekari through Papua New Guinea. In some places the ceremony is traced back to the story of caring god named Dewa Iriwonawai in the Karai Rama mountain of Yapen. This Iriwonawai had lots of sago, the staple food of majority people in Papua and wanted to make sure that the sago (the food) would be distributed fairly to all people at all seasons; that the people will not have to go hungry even in time of difficulty. That is why from time to time the god would call all the people living near and far to come to the village and share the food that has been cooked using the hot stone. But in other areas the ceremony has been long time used to settle conflict in respectful manner i.e., just and fair for all parties involved. Usually after a bakar batu ceremony is initiated the fight will really stop. This is because they respect the ceremony as somehow sacred and has to be treated with full respect. Sociologically speaking the ceremony is a short of media where people are discussing openly about the fight and how much each party has to pay for the cost resulted from the fight and so on. The agreement is then executed during the ceremony symbolized by breaking/destroying the weapons from each party and ended with eating together the food that has been cooked using the hot stone.

It is just recently that the government of Indonesia looking at the ceremony as powerful mechanism in settling the seemingly to be hopelessly endless conflict. For many years, the ceremony was only taken as kind cultural performance performed in TMII (the national park of miniature of Indonesia in Jakarta. A project initiated by the wife of former president Indonesia, Suharto). Just to show you how such powerful local wisdom has been wasted and belittled is that since the TMII was founded in 1975 till its 32nd anniversary last April 2007, the powerful wisdom is still seen as skin-deep shallow performance telling about dancing and eating party around the hot stone. (Suara Pembaruan Daily: 19 April 2007)

Second, personal – individual concern is not enough. (Re)-discovering and promoting back the culture of peace is a big project. It requires different forms of logistical supports and capacities. Individual capacity would not be able to meet it. In my case it is good that I can make use of the rehabilitation project my organization is doing in the dispute areas. And it is even better that part of our organization policy in having rehabilitation projects is to be conflict sensitive and gender sensitive. This way I can sit with our partners, having in dept discussions on how to integrate the ideas into the project. Now we have been implementing the rehabilitation project for one and half year, slowly I can see the culture is being transformed, but the journey to discover the culture of peace has till to be continued. And I was somehow lucky, that being on the spot, I have the chance as to make close observation and follow every small development that is taking place in among the community.

Exploring, analyzing and promoting a constructive role of women

In my other writings, I always emphasize the important role women play in a conflict transformation. I remember I shared with you (in ATESEA consultation in Chiang May in 2005) one story –one of my favorites—on how women in Maluku, driven by their concern for survival and life, have initiated a fair trade with the women from the other party, supposed to be considered as their “enemy”. There is another story from Aceh. In the time of war, in 1999 the call for referendum was very strong, but more than 2000 (two thousand) women met and called for reconciliation and peace for people of Aceh. The call resulted mockery among the men including NGO activists at that time. The women were labeled as stupid by many men. They failed to understand that while women had suffered a great deal from the war, the women even called for reconciliation instead of referendum. But the women insisted. (Anna Marsiana; 2001)

From the experience that women inherently take up the role of peacemaker because in times of conflict women as being the most vulnerable sector of society suffers the most. In the Javanese wayang, (shadow puppet) there is a character called Semar. { it is not specificied whether Semar is a he/she } Semar is portrayed in the image of a clown. The clown is the peacemaker , Semar is mock , nobody takes the clown seriously yet Semar educates in clowning , it is the Semar who paves the entrance of Arjuna, the charming prince who leads the pandawa to win the fight in respectfull manner. Being a Javanese, I would like to put the women’s way of peace making in to this perspective. Perhaps, one has to take into perspective that women role in making or searching peace is a Semar way , to make a fresh interpretation of “women being made as laughing stock” when they initiate peace. Our search and promote peace from Boulding’s perspectives requires re-interpretation of the men’s world of the search for peace.

I am consistent with my belief that when there is an option, women will always opt for life. Or when things have gone to its worst, women will usually appear in public, with their option for life even when this ironically means dead for them. The thing is many times there is no option for the women. Women are always vulnerable in a conflict situation. They have to either follow their leaders, their men (husband, father, uncle, son, village leaders) or take the risk of not being protected and left vulnerable forever.

In that situation women will usually end up with going with the currents, playing the role as to extend the conflict or even make it worse by spreading some provoking stories to both parties. This is also very true as having no power independently from the men, a woman will naturally find a coalition with the men where she can share a little bit the power the men are having and be proud a little bit of it. It is indeed very sad. But it is the fact one cannot deny it. I am aware that this issue is very complex and needs to be analyzed from different perspectives. But in this paper I cannot but try to make it appears very simple; i.e., that we cannot blame the women for doing so; knowingly and unknowingly extending and even deteriorating the conflict.

Although the option for life is, I believe, naturally just there, in every woman, especially those who are mothers, the external complex forces of power are many times just too strong to be opposed alone by this natural force. That is why it is important for us, people working in educational institute to really explore, analyze the existing roles of women, especially in conflict situation, and then develop and promote more constructive roles of women. In a way this has to be empowering for the women, but in return this will really do a great impact on the conflict transformation.

This is really true with our rehabilitation project in Nias I mentioned earlier in this paper. Formerly the women were only an instrument for the men to extend their interests. They were kept ignorant and informed only information that of the interest of the men, expected to extend the interests. But now after one and half years, the women have started to stand up and speak up for themselves. In some occasions, the women have insisted to be part of some important meetings where usually only men were sitting and talking about important issues. I have to admit that not all women have reached this level. But at least some women have started to get the sense of being independent; that they can have power, and they do have power, without having to be attached to the power of the men. Experience of these “some women” needs to put into public to set an example that indeed “some women” are capable of doing so !

Consistent in developing a theology that promotes peace and conflict transformation

What I mean by developing a theology that promotes peace here is not a certain – independent theology. Rather we need to develop an applicable theology of peace by integrating the different “ingredients” that form the culture of peace in the all the theological discourses taught in the schools. This means that the subjects of biblical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology have to take up the issue of conflict transformation and try to integrate it in the subjects.

For me this is really important. We in working in the area of theology are in the position of producing /reproducing “new knowledge “ of peace – we are much in the position of being an agency to halt disinformation by producing a feeling of threat borne out of “othering.” In theology must be intersubjective in nature by constructing a perception of a peaceful community borne out of dynamics of constructive conflict transformation. We in the theology especially working in teaching is in a greater demand to produce students whose personhood is in communion with a moral community in which they are working. In the end, these students are the ones in the front lines of the society. The fact that many social conflicts take place in communities where Christian are majority tells that the Church has failed to deal with conflict in a more constructive manner. This is a phase where we start to re-think , perhaps students we produce are isolated with the moral community the reason why there is a failure of conflict transformation .

In the biblical area for example, Walter Wink has developed a text re-reading on conflict transformation, what he calls as “Jesus’ third way”. One has to be challenged to have more re-reading of certain texts or more texts that can help them to find what usually is called as the third way. (Judy Zimmerman Herr and Robert Herr: 1998: 34-47). I am not a “biblical” person, but I find the re-reading is very useful and inspiring for me when I have to deal with conflict that involves church people. The opportunity is even wider in the area of practical theology. I am very privileged to have my two feet standing on two different positions: one in the real world where you have to face the real problem such a conflict, and the other one in the class where you are expected to discuss and develop something in the discourse level. ( I am teaching three different subjects: Introduction to Feminist Theology, Contextual Diakonia, and Communication & Theology.) This way I can really bring the two different worlds into a dialectic and make possible to make a maximum effort as to develop a theology that promotes peace and conflict transformation. I am aware that many of us do not have the privilege I am having. I am also not trying to propose that theological teachers/professors should also involve her/himself with work in the grassroot level. This is not my proposal. For this only means, again, a personal effort. A personal effort is neither sufficient nor adequate to answer the challenge. What we need now is an institutional effort as to take up the challenge seriously.

With this I end my presentation.

Some references:
1. Arendse, Craig., Robert A. Evans & John Nielsen, Empowering for Reconciliation, unpublished
article, 2000
2.Boulding, Elise, “Culture of Peace and Communities of Faith”, in Judy Zimmerman Herr & Robert
Herr, ed. Transforming Violence: Linking Local and Global Peace Making, Waterloo:
Herald Press, 1998.
3. Ediger, Max, Peace Making Examples, unpublished article, shared during the consultation on peace
making efforts, in Solo, Indonesia, October 2001.
4. Marsiana, Anna, Looking to the future: Living Together, How (Christian’s Perspective): a paper
presented during the Consultation on Inter-Religious Cooperation in Asia: An Interfaith
Endeavor to Learn from Each Other’s Wisdom to Live Together, Parapat, Indonesia,
5. ——– , “We Dare to live, We Dare to Die”, IGI, Vol. 22, No.3, September 2003.
6. Flower Aceh, Nyala Panyot Tak Kunjung pada, Aceh: Flower Aceh, 1999.
7. Wink, Walter, “Jesus’ Third Way”, in Judy Zimmerman Herr & Robert Herr, ed., Transforming
Violence: Linking Local and Global Peace Making, Waterloo:
Herald Press, 1998
8. Suara Pembaruan, 19 April, 2007


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