IRC Youth Programs to Help Mend Ethnic Rifts in Indonesia's Troubled Poso
The CARDI humanitarian aid consortium, of which the IRC is a member, has launched a program in Indonesia’s troubled Central Sulawesi province that will bring youth from different ethnic groups together, providing them with education and social services.
“The past conflict has taken a huge toll on the area’s youth,” says CARDI’s country director Kees Groenendijk. “They are often traumatized and with high unemployment rates have little prospects for the future.”
The program, funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), will train youth leaders, provide non-formal education programs for youth who have dropped out of school, and organize recreational activities and vocational training. The youth leaders will also develop a radio program with talk shows and news featuring youth issues which will be broadcast through local radio stations.
The Poso region proved fertile ground for communal violence with underlying economic, ethnic, religious and political tensions, and street fighting between Christians and Muslims in late 1998 rapidly unleashed a spiral of violence that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless. Although three years of sectarian conflict formally ended with a peace agreement in December 2001 the violence has continued, albeit on a small scale. Some reconciliation activities have since been organized by the Indonesian authorities, but there is still a high degree of mistrust and the communities remain separated.
“We are setting up four youth centers where young people can meet and normalize their relationships with others from different religious and ethnic backgrounds,” Groenendijk says. “The youth will be able to carry out a range of recreational activities such as sports, dance and music. At the same time more practical things will be taught, such as woodwork, fishing techniques and traditional weaving.”
The initiative is targeting some 3,000 youth in the ages between 15 and 25.
CARDI has already carried out similar youth programs in the provinces of Maluku and North Maluku, the scene of violent ethnic clashes in 1999-2001.
With its headquarters in Jakarta, CARDI is currently active in three other provinces affected by conflict in the country: Aceh, Maluku and North Maluku.