Who on Earth would want to come to this place in the middle of nowhere and burn everything? The question echoed in my mind when I first arrived on the tiny island of Kesui, a part of the Indonesian archipelago. The population of some 5,000 Kesui had been torn apart by strife. At the time, JRS had been approached by a group of Kesui requesting assistance to bring their relatives home after they had been displaced.
A rather unusual request because those making it had actually been the foes of the displaced during the conflict; a request that would become the milestone for a unique reconciliation process.
It was only after months and years of travel from island to island, of being with the displaced and those who had stayed home, that we realised how complex and multi-layered the conflict was. It was often portrayed as sectarian – those who fled were Christians, those who stayed were Muslims – but the reality was more nuanced. The conflict was also about the economy, wealth and greed. We discovered that the opportunities for the displaced to return home lay in the hands of a few individuals in both groups.
We had to start from the beginning with those we were to serve, but also as a team and with ourselves. We were dealing with people for whom professional terms and theory was meaningless.
As we were going to act as mediators, how these people perceived us and felt about us was crucially important. We felt that if we were to gain the trust of both groups we could only be ourselves throughout the entire process.
I felt strongly that the path towards reconciliation was for these two groups to sit and talk and share their feelings of loss and pain. Honest discussion from the heart that makes us human and connects us could bring them together.
It was a process of trial and error. We were continually reflecting on our work and within ourselves. Amid doubt and uncertainty during the process of reconciliation, I learned how precious truth, humility, patience and sweetness were. How they helped to renew relationships and served as a bridge for people to return upon.
The experience was like a process of going home to myself. I finally learned that home means getting in touch with myself, connecting with and acknowledging what I have received from above, and sharing that feeling of home with those whom we accompany, serve and defend.
Taka Gani, programmes officer, JRS Indonesia
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