HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc209-10W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation of Christians in the Moluccas Islands. [23142]

Mr. Bradshaw

We continue to monitor events in the province closely. The United Nations has made several assessment visits to Maluku since 1999. They have found concrete evidence of only a small number of forced conversions, including the most highly reported cases in Kasiui and Tior. Many of the Christians evacuated from the province in January are now reported to be voluntarily returning to their homes. Also, many Muslims and Christians who fled their villages to escape the violence are returning, and Muslim leaders in some villages have asked for help in encouraging Christians to return.

The Department for International Development (DFID) has pledged more than £4 million to help establish the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Conflict Prevention and Recovery Unit in Jakarta. The unit will build up capacity in conflict reduction and recovery in the provinces torn apart by ethnic conflict, particularly in North Maluku. These new initiatives will complement DFID-supported humanitarian relief programmes by addressing the causes underlying conflict, abuse of power, alienation and loss of access to and control of resources essential for everyday life. The embassy in Jakarta has also recently funded a series of conflict reporting training workshops for journalists in various provinces in Indonesia, including North Maluku. We will continue to work with the Indonesian authorities and UNDP to promote reconciliation, begin wider reconstruction work and to offer practical assistance where appropriate.

The UK's message to the Indonesian Government has been consistently clear: a long-term solution to regional conflicts can only be achieved through political negotiation and consultation with the people. On 29 November, the British Charge d' Affaires in Jakarta raised our concerns about recent violence in Maluku with Manuel Kaisiepo, the Minister for Eastern Indonesia.

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