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Ambon Island

One of
Indonesia's Spice Islands, Ambon attracted European adventurers and colonists for its clove trade as early as 1521. It was fought over by the Portuguese, British and Dutch until finally coming under Dutch rule in 1814. The Dutch presence created a relatively large Christian population in Ambon. 

Following World War II, during which the island was occupied by the Japanese, many Ambonese resisted becoming part of Indonesia and attempted to establish an independent South Moluccan Republic (RMS = Republik Maluku Selatan), but Indonesian troops suppressed the movement. 

Ambon is home to the capital of Maluku province that consists of about 1,000 islands formerly known as the Moluccas, or Spice Islands. Ambon island embraces 294 square miles (764 square kilometers) of generally hilly, agricultural terrain that produces coffee, corn, copra, cloves and sugar, among others. 

Muslims have steadily immigrated to Ambon since the establishment of the Indonesian Republic in 1949. Christians and Muslims co-existed in relative peace for decades, although the new settlers steadily chipped away at the traditional Christian predominance. The population in 1980 stood at more than 650,000. 

An Ambonese Muslim became the governor of the island in the early 1990s, and the change in the power structure of the island increased tensions. A series of church burnings and attacks on mosques in Jakarta and West Timor brought the situation to critical mass. 

Government attempts to suppress the unrest were unsuccessful, and in January 1999 what began as a street fight between a Christian bus driver and a Muslim passenger escalated into the worst religious fighting in Indonesia's history. More than 1,000 people were killed and thousands more fled. 

By late June 2000, when Indonesian President Abudurrahman Wahid proclaimed a state of civil emergency, about 3,000 people had been killed since the outbreak of violence, and Wahid's declaration did little to quiet the uproar. 

Destroyed Villages

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