Sustaining Peace from Campus to Community in Indonesia - Julia Novrita

Setting – Maluku Province in Indonesia

The research grows out of a program that promotes reconciliation between Muslim and Christian students at Pattimura State University, Ambon in the province of Maluku, Indonesia.  The population of Maluku is split almost evenly between Muslims and Christians, although the students and faculty at Pattimura University are predominantly Christian. The study focuses on the Non-Violent Study Circle (NVSC) program that brings segregated Muslim and Christian students into a reflective dialogue on how to work together for the mission of "Sustaining Peace from Campus to Community." The program was founded in response to the violent demonstrations in 2011 involving Muslim and Christian students at the university.


The Research

The research gathered data from both Muslim and Christian students, graduates, parents and staff members associated with the NVSC program. The researcher investigated barriers that students face in trying to promote reconciliation across communal divisions on the campus and in the community. Her study included students and faculty members from two departments at the university: one that is predominantly Christian, and one that has roughly equal representation and as a consequence has more intergroup tension. She asked students about why they chose to come to the university, what their experience at the university has been, and what their understanding of the reasons for the conflict is.

Non-Violent Study Circle Program

She also investigated whether respondents perceived any impact from the Malino agreement, which ended the widespread violence in Maluku province from 1999-2002, that would provide lessons that could be applied after the violent demonstrations at Pattimura State University in 2011.


Preliminary Outcomes

Preliminary findings show that the graduates of the NVSC program encounter various barriers as they seek to promote constructive communication between the two communities at the university. Students reported pressure from more senior students to maintain beliefs about the other community, lack of support from the university, and difficulty in finding settings in which both groups could meet and discuss their mutual perceptions. 


Graduates described the resistance that they encountered in trying to change the perceptions which members of both groups learned from their families and communities. Muslim students reported feeling that they had no voice, and had to compromise their beliefs in order to fit in, while Christian students generally felt comfortable with their experience. Tensions were particularly strong around religious holidays and events.


The Author

Julia Novrita comes from Indonesia and is a co-founder of Inspiring Development (InDev), an NGO whose mission is to strengthen the capacity of community groups, NGOs, governments and education institutions through training, research, and consultancy.  NVSC, an activity sponsored by InDev, was founded by Julia in response to violent conflicts involving students at Pattimura University in 2011.  This study was undertaken for her doctoral dissertation.