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Conflict Resolution Studies Come to Aceh


Banda Aceh, TAG - Some say that divine intervention was behind the peace in Indonesia’s westernmost province, because intensified talks to bring an end to nearly 30 years of armed conflict only came after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. But many believe otherwise.




Conflict resolution is a science, and a move is afoot to install its study in Aceh’s universities. 

Sahlan Hanafiah, head of the Ar-Raniry Islamic Institute’s Peace and Conflict Resolution Center, said his team was currently creating a curriculum to introduce students to the study of conflict resolution. The idea to bring the study to this campus stems from the anxiety in some quarters that Aceh’s newfound peace is fragile and might not last. 


“That argument [of the fragile peace] is supported if we look at the history of the cycle of violence in Aceh. Conflicts repeat over and over again here,” Sahlan told the Jakarta Globe on Monday. 


“The best way to make peace lasting and sustainable is through education — giving students the knowledge about how to resolve conflicts,” he said. 


Nine universities signed up as pilot projects for the curriculum. They are Syah Kuala University and Ar-Raniry Institute in Banda Aceh, Abulyatama University in Aceh Besar, Jabal Ghafur University in Pidie, Al-Muslim University in Bireuen, Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Gajah Putih University in Central Aceh, Teuku Umar Meulaboh University in West Aceh and the state-run Cot Kala School of Islamic Studies in Langsa. 


In a recent survey, academics and activists agreed that an education in conflict resolution was the best way to maintain peace. 


“For Ar-Raniry Institute, the conflict resolution study program will be opened in 2011,” Sahlan said, adding that the institute is also working with Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University and state-run Jakarta Islamic University. “Consultants for this study program are from those two institutions,” he said. 


Gadjah Mada University is currently the only institution in Indonesia to offer courses in peace and conflict resolution. However, the study program is only available for postgraduates. 

Sahlan said he was optimistic the curriculum, which is being tailored to the specific needs of the universities in Aceh, would be ready in six months. 


“Malikussaleh University has introduced a conflict resolution subject but it is still far from what we expect in terms of the coverage of the subject and the objectives of the teaching,” Sahlan said. 

The planned curriculum will focus on resolving a variety of disputes, in the hope that students can be mediators in so-called vertical and horizontal conflicts. 


“It’s been our concern that a small horizontal conflict — a clash between groups in a society — can develop into a larger one. If mishandled, such a conflict can turn into a vertical one, in which feuding parties gang up against the security forces,” Sahlan said. 


Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar said the administration welcomed the initiative to introduce conflict resolution to Acehnese students because of the province’s tumultuous past. 


“Aceh had been more often in a state of conflict than in peace,” he said. 


“To sustain the peace that we are in now, education is the right direction,” said Nazar, a former independence activist who pushed for reform in the troubled province. 


“It’s not only vertical conflicts between Acehnese people and the central government that have happened here. Horizontal conflicts abound, such as the Cumbok war from 1946 to 1947,” which pitted two militia groups — one sympathetic to the Dutch, one opposed — against one another as the struggle for independence began. 


“But perhaps the most interesting fact is that nearly all conflicts in Aceh have been settled through diplomatic channels, regardless of how fierce the wars were,” he said. “The phenomenon surely needs further study, but I think it can be used as an example to resolve conflicts in other places. With this new education initiative, the central government must give serious attention and support to make the effort work effectively.” 


Nazar said he was confident the introduction of conflict resolution studies to the universities would help make Aceh a center for conflict study in Indonesia. 


Such a step, he said, would help Aceh contribute more to world peace than simply as a recurring subject for international researchers who are studying ongoing conflicts. 


“It’s time we explore our own history and share it with people outside Aceh. It’s more dignified than just being explored and questioned like objects,” Nazar said.[]
Conflict Resolution Studies Come to Aceh Conflict Resolution Studies Come to Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on February 03, 2010 Rating: 5

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