The conflict in Aceh was the latest manifestation of a long history of rebellion against the Government of Indonesia, in Jakarta. It was massively violent and involving the forces of both conflicting parties that long lasted for almost three decades. After various strategies, the consensual approach to peace succeeded to end the conflict.
The consensual approach to peace is based on reaching an agreement that ends violence and hostilities as well as establishes a harmonious relationship to achieve mutual goals for mutual benefits by being mutually dependent on each other’s resources and establishing mutual identity . It is accomplished in two levels; peacemaking and peacebuilding.
The peacemaking process was reached after the Helsinki Agreement signed by both parties in August 2005. However, the peacebuilding process is still being undertaken so that conflict in Aceh will not re-escalate.
This article is aimed to explore the significance of peacebuilding endeavors in Aceh through the initiative of Peace Memorial Hall.
A road to consensual peace in Aceh
Free Aceh Movement was a rebellious ‘separatist’ movement in Aceh established in 1976 demanding an independence from Indonesia. Many said it was driven by identity issues, and some said it was driven by grievances and structural causes, among them, natural resources.
The various attempts had been taken to end this conflict started from the regime of Soeharto to Megawati by utilizing any means from peace talks to military forces. There was no hope for the conflict resolution and peace in Aceh until the sixth President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), assisted by Jusuf Kalla (JK), his vice president, attempted to rearrange the peaceful resolution as their commitment demonstrated in the 2004 general election.
As a matter of fact, Tsunami in Aceh in 2004 gave a chance to Indonesia to intervene the disaster management assistance. JK initiated the attempt to end the conflict after the failure of previous attempts. He was the most influential person in ending the Aceh conflict.
The Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) was chosen as the third party that involved in the Aceh’s peaceful resolution . The agreement between conflicting parties was made at the fifth round of negotiation meeting held in Helsinki by the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on August 15, 2005; hence the 15th of August is proclaimed as the Aceh Peace Day under the Governor Regulation.
The conflict that had taken away more than 15,000 lives and displaced tens of thousands of Aceh’s people was eventually settled ever since. The role played by JK in leading the peacemaking process is a proof that any form of conflict can reach its end through, among them, consensual approach to peace. Yet, the peace must be preserved through peacebuilding.
Peacebuilding and Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh
Peacebuilding is defined as an effort to realize the positive peace where all sectoral institutions; economic, political and educational sectors are aiming to create a long-term harmonious relationship (Johnson & Johnson, 2018). The post-conflict assistance programs were done by all sectoral institutions to support the development in Aceh. Alongside, the Aceh Monitoring Mission assisted the peacebuilding processes until 2006 .
Apparently, Aceh is just like other provinces in Indonesia in terms of its socio-economic deve-lopment. The immense improvement can be seen in term of security and violence levels, so that human development in Aceh also shows a positive result of the effective implementation of the Helsinki agreement.
Along with that, the peacebuilding effort was articulated by Government of Aceh through the opening of Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh in 2015, ten years after the signing of Helsinki peace agreement. The Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh is located in the Agency of Political Unity and Protection of Society (Badan Kesatuan Bangsa Politik dan Perlindungan Masyarakat) in Banda Aceh. The Peace Memorial Hall is built to be an information center of Aceh conflict and its settlement processes which is opened for public.
In giving a comprehensive understanding to Aceh people and visitor, the peace memorial hall is supported by the audio-visual media such as photographs, videos, films, books, research publication, and artifacts, as well as weapons used during the conflict. With all of them, the Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh is used for the peace education purposes which are expected to give anyone an understanding about conflict and peace in Aceh.
The significance of Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh for peace education
The peacebuilding in consensual peace should be supported by the institutions in creating the harmonious relations among people. Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh is a reflection of both political and informal educational institution as it is established under the authority of Government of Aceh. It aims to give peace education to people in a way that it provides historical manifestation of conflict and peace in Aceh.
“Peace education is the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavior changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup, national or international level “
From the definition, peace memorial hall is the integral part of peace education in Aceh because it promotes peace through giving anyone who visits the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that had successfully ended the conflict of Aceh.
To compare with, Japan has the highest number of peace museums in the world for the purpose of peace education . For example, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and Nagasaki National Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims become good examples to be explored. The objective of peace memorial hall is likely similar to peace museum i.e. to inform about peace and how to get there.
The formulation of “Three Basic Principles of Education for Peace” in 1978 is being implemented in elementary and junior high schools in Nagasaki. It aims to pass on the experience of the atomic bomb survivors and to nurture students to emerge the awareness on the importance of peace.
The Government of Nagasaki has successfully integrated peace in education system by conducting some programs, such as an annual school trip to Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum for having a seminar from the atomic bomb survivors (Nakashima, 2018).
Referring to the good examples of peace education in Nagasaki, the Government of Aceh can apply the similar strategy.
The fact that Aceh conflict is the latest manifestation of long story of rebellion against Indonesia, making peace education is significant in place. Despite the lack of integration between peace and current education system in Indonesia in general, the peace process must be taken to prevent conflict to emerge.
Therefore, the initiative of Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh is considered necessary and significant not only to exhibit any form of historical objects but also to educate people about the bitter history of Aceh conflict so that people would rather to embrace the culture of peace instead of culture of conflict.
The peacebuilding through peace education is essential to realize the peace in Aceh. Mahatma Gandhi believes that to reach real peace in this world we shall have to begin with the children. Alongside, it is also important to promote peace to everyone through education.
The Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh is an initial gateway to the real peace in Aceh. It is suggested that the Government of Aceh can integrate education and engage everyone to the peacebuilding process. The more inclusive policy is required to realize the real peace.
There are several recommended policies and programs to be implemented; such as expanding the building and adding more the historical objects of Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh, implementing the annual school trip program to Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh, engaging university students to be a volunteer in Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh for disseminating the culture of peace, commemorating the Aceh Peace Day, engaging civil society organizations to promote peace, and also inviting ex-combatants and victims of Aceh conflict to peace memorial hall to share their bloody armed conflict experiences.
Therefore, it will be more effective to preserve peace in Aceh by constructing the culture of peace as peacebuilding process through learning the lesson from the past reflected in Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh. Moreover, Peace Memorial Hall of Aceh could inspire the world on how Aceh can realize the peace through peacemaking and peacebuilding.
Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh
21 years old, 4th year student majoring international relations in Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. Currently I am a junior researcher and Head of Division of Media and Public Relations of ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta.
This essay has been edited and modified for digital publication and reading easiness reasons.
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