04 September 2008

Reinventing Peusijuk and Meufakat

Reinventing Peusijuk and Meufakat:
Cultural Approaches to Conflict Resolution and Reconsiliation in Aceh Between GAM and the Government of Indonesia

Al Chaidar
Universitas Malikussaleh

This empirical case study based on field research in Aceh and with theoretical reflection on two cultural instruments: peusijuk and meufakat. Peusijuk is a folk tradition practiced by Acehnese perpetually as a sacralization process after having a turmoil, conflict, disaster, good or bad luck, and other woes. Meufakat is a traditional mechanism in solving a dispute or conflict between two parties within or out of Acehnese society. Unluckily, these two major cultural instruments have never been utilized by the authority (state apparatus or government) in conflict resolution and reconciliation in Aceh.
Meufakat is a sort of truce, after a summit meeting between two disputees. Meufakat is also known as “traditional democracy” in Aceh. But, at nowadays political climate in Aceh, the position of religion (Islam) has decreasingly been used by major conflict actors. Local culture (and religion/Islam) has not been utilized by the rebel and government. Democracy, in spite of Islam, has became a pseudo-religion for civil society in Aceh. Using democracy in every steps and movements will give them a new spirit of fighting. It is a real in Aceh, at least from rebels’ point of view, that using religion was, is and will always be fanatical and encapsulated than as liberating force and inclusive solidarity making. Realizing that democracy is a secular-religion for almost every nations on this worldly earth, students and youths then taking this way of movement to attrack international communities more focusing on Aceh problem productively.

Keywords: conflict, reconciliation, conflict resolution, cultural actor, pseudo-religion.

A number of Southeast Asian countries have been badly shaken in recent decades by religious, ethnic, social, political and economic conflicts. The search for reconciliation and peace is an important issue in the whole region. Promoting an interdisciplinary examination of one of the countries affected, Indonesia, this workshop goes beyond a mere political approach to reconciliation and offers new understandings of cultural reconciliation processes and factors, which both facilitate and inhibit reconciliation in different cultures. This will provide valuable insights not only for Indonesia, but for conflict situations much more broadly.

The issues of conflict, conflict resolution and reconciliation have been on the agenda for most of the second half of the twentieth century in general. The rise of the new media has transformed conflicts into global spectacles: images of conflicts from all over the world are brought right into the users' homes, be it on TV or the Internet, in the newspaper or on the radio. Images of conflict seem to be much easier to convey on these channels than images of reconciliation and peace. As we all know: only bad news is news. Recent conflicts in South Africa, Rwanda and East Timor have given rise to a reconciliation toolkit of truth commissions and law enforcement, justice and human rights, forgiveness and amnesty. These mechanisms are supposed to be the means not only to stop conflict and violence, but also to reconcile warring parties and create sustainable peace. Due to the often limited success of these approaches, people and organisations involved in developing conflict solving strategies have started to think about the integration of cultural factors into the reconciliation process. Kevin Avruch argues (1998) that no conflict can be understood and analysed, let alone sustainably solved, without taking its cultural context into account. The workshop therefore aims to go beyond seeing reconciliation as a purely political process by exploring its socio-cultural contexts and promoting a more ethnographic reading of the reconciliation processes.
A lot has been said and written about violent conflict in Indonesia, investigating its different dimensions across disciplines. Unfortunately, reconciliation has caught much less attention by academics. Debates on reconciliation in Indonesia focus on human rights issues, justice and law enforcement and are heavily influenced by international NGOs and agencies such as the UN. This workshop strives to fill major gaps in reconciliation studies by exploring the cultural dimension of reconciliation in general and its specific forms in Indonesia.
The workshop aims to invite scholars from different academic disciplines such as social anthropology, sociology, law, political science, history and others from Indonesia and abroad. We invite both empirical case studies based on original fieldwork and theoretical reflections to be presented at the workshop. The workshop will cover reconciliation issues that deal with conflicts on different scales, in different contexts, in different regions and in different phases of contemporary Indonesian history. The publication of selected papers of the workshop will make a unique and new contribution to understanding 'the other' dimension of reconciliation and different cultures of reconciliation.

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