Indonesia: Ambon's Wounded
A banner at the airstrip on Ambon, a tiny dot in Indonesia's Maluku island chain, quotes passages from both the Christian Bible and the Muslim Koran calling for peace.
Look into the charred face of Frendy Nunemete, however, and you will see that peace is a concept far from being realized here in the cradle of the Spice Islands, where Muslim-Christian battles have raged for nearly two years.
The assault on his Christian village happened quickly June 15. The village's defenders were immediately overrun by attackers wielding automatic weapons, mortar rounds, and grenades.
As his brother fell dead from a gunshot, Nunemete climbed onto a roof to hide. The attackers searched for him below, then tossed grenades into the house and set it afire. To escape the flames, Nunemete dove into a large container of water, which soon became unbearably hot. As he climbed out and tried to lunge through the blaze, heat and fire consumed his flesh.
Nunemete's burned scalp is wrapped in gauze. Pink, puffy, scarred flesh roughly resembles a face, most of which is burned away. Gauze covers the cavity, which once was a nose. His ears are charred, his eyes swollen and red—with no eyelids to protect them. He can barely speak through a mangled mouth and swollen lips.
"I don't know why they did this," he rasped. "I don't understand why we are being killed. I'm just thankful to God that I am still alive."
His response echoes among many in the communities of Ambon, where the majority of the population historically has been Christian in an overwhelmingly Muslim nation. A battle has raged here for two years. Muslim and Christian communities that coexisted peacefully for generations now stand divided by sandbags and barbed wire barricades in the road—and blood on ...