She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I strongly believe that peace lives in the mind of every human being”.
She says also: “It was February 22, I struggled to save my family. I knew it was no longer secure to stay behind. A huge angry mob was marching toward our village. So I hurriedly took my mother and my younger siblings and fled to the mountain to find a safe hiding place along with our neighbors”.
And she says: “Many people are still traumatized, they still have not regained their trust in each other, they can easily be provoked by rumors, thus they have not been able to live side by side peacefully like they used to.”
Hilda Djulaida Rolobessy – Indonesia
She works for Yayasan Pengembangan dan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat YPPM.
Since the violence in Maluku erupted in 1998, Hilda Rolobessy (born 1972) has been actively involved in providing assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (DPs.
In 1999, she founded Yayasan Pengembangan dan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat YPPM, the Development and Improvement for Society Association, which provides comprehensive support for IDPs, especially women, and promotes peace and reconciliation among parties involved in conflict.
YPPM’s impartial and courageous efforts have encouraged communities in conflict to bury the hatchet and gradually reinstate peace in their communities.
Hilda Djulaida Rolobessy was a victim of the violent sectarian conflict in Ambon, Maluku’s provincial capital. Her neighborhood in Batu Merah Dalam village was destroyed in a violent attack on the Moslem community in February 1999.
When she returned to her village to get some clothes, she found most of the houses, including hers, had been burned to the ground. But losing her house and her neighborhood did not bring down Hilda, who was then 32-years old. “I have seen many others who have suffered much worse, like the displaced people whom I was helping then,” she says.
When the violence erupted in Maluku in 1998, Hilda began helping internally displaced persons (IDP). With her women activist friends from the Nahdlatul Ulama Young Generation (GMNU), she embarked on her first humanitarian mission with the IDPs. Many areas in Maluku had already been destroyed as the result of the conflict. Countless houses, mosques, churches were burned down.
Hundreds of people died. Thousands more were forced to seek refuge in safer areas.
Hilda encountered many problems in her work. But one of the most crucial challenges to her efforts in assisting the IDPs was religious prejudice. “The fact that we are Moslem, we wore jilbab (Moslem headscarf for women), often hampered our efforts to reach the people in need. We wanted to help victims from both sides. But people, especially from the Christian side, usually thought we could not be neutral because we are Moslem, we are GMNU members and we wear the jilbab,” she explains.
Moslem women are urged to wear the jilbab. But for safety reasons, Hilda and her friends took off their jilbab when they could not find a safe route and had to pass through a combat zone or a Christian-dominated area. Recently, Hilda decided to stop wearing the jilbab. “The kind of work that I do, unfortunately, just does not encourage me to wear the jilbab.”
In order to reduce the bias toward her humanitarian activities, Hilda founded a non-governmental organization in late 1999 called the Development and Improvement for Society Association YPPM.
Some Christian youth have since volunteered to support YPPM’s work. YPPM promotes peace through reconciliation, mediation, advocacy, lobbying, strengthening civil society, promoting human rights and trauma counseling in thee Maluku and North Maluku provinces.
Its target groups include IDPs, the hard-line and the moderate factions from both the Moslem and Christian sides, fisher folk and students, groups that play important roles, either in a positive or negative way, in the conflict.
YPPM highlights two particularly sensitive issues that have triggered fresh fighting in its peace-building and reconciliation work: the handling of the IDPs and the separatist movement sustained by members of the Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM). For example, Ambon was again rocked by conflict in April 2004.
The violent clashes were sparked by a rally to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the proclamation of a South Maluku Republic was staged by FKM members, most of whom were believed to be Christians.
YPPM works to encourage the Maluku people to trust each other again. “We try to make them believe that peace is possible.”
Before the conflict, the Maluku people lived in a peaceful and tolerant environment. They upheld the principle of Pela Gandong, where Christians and Moslems vowed to respect and help each other like brothers. After the conflict began, they lost confidence in one other and ended up living in segregated areas. In 1999, it was impossible for a Christian to enter a Moslem area, and vice versa.
They met only in neutral areas such as hospitals and the governor’s office.
Many inter-faith families – husbands and wives, parents and children – were forced to live in separate locations according to their religion. Entry restrictions applied to everyone, including journalists and humanitarian workers who had to be accompanied by representatives of the community or the police, if they wanted to enter locations for the purpose of reporting or delivering aid.
It became more difficult for Hilda and her friends to get access to the IDPs by land, with barricades placed everywhere by each warring party ‘to mark and safe guard’ their controlled areas. On the other hand, sea transport was impractical, as it would take longer, and was unsafe. Often the warring parties shot at one another at sea.
There were also snipers operating from speedboats.
Hilda recalls: “We were on the way back to Ambon city on a fish boat – the land routes were closed with barricades – after distributing rice donated by the Japanese people for the IDPs on the other part of the island, when suddenly our boat was being shot at.” All the passengers ducked in the stinky fish container, trying to save themselves. One woman and two children were killed.
YPPM’s hard work to rebuild peace and promote reconciliation among the conflicting parties has started to bear fruit. Many people, such as the Wais of Ambon Island and the Lokis of Seram Island who left their villages to avoid attacks from neighboring villages during the riots, have gradually returned to their villages, Hilda reports. Negotiation, mediation and advocacy efforts have encouraged many people to better understand the nature of the conflict, appreciate the value of peace and try not to be easily provoked by rumors.
Another important target group in YPPM’s works are the women.
Conflicts disturb society’s social-economic activities, and women become vulnerable to poverty when they suddenly must assume the role of breadwinner after their husbands or sons die in the conflict. It is even more difficult for women to sustain their families, as they are often constrained by stereotyping and unequal opportunities. YPPM works to empower widows by providing them with microcredit and training. YPPM has also been providing trauma counseling for women – both Moslem and Christians – since 1999.
“In 1999, we had to do it in secret because the tension was still very high. Moslem and Christian women doing activities together in the same room might have caused a problem,” Hilda recalls. Since they could not meet in public or anybody’s house, Hilda and her friends collected money among themselves to rent a room in a hotel. “We came in separately so no one would notice.”
Hilda’s involvement in civic organizations and the strengthening of society date back to her college years when she was an active member of the Islamic student organization (PMII) at the Indonesian Islamic University in Makassar, South Sulawesi. When she returned to Ambon in 1996, Hilda joined the GMNU and worked on social and community environment issues. She is currently the head of the Maluku branch of the Nahdlatul Ulama Research and Development of Human Resource Institution / Lakpesdam NU. (1000PeaceWomen).
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