The residents of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, suffered a disaster one year ago that may have killed as many as 170,000 in their province alone. But some have noted that the violence of nature appears to have stemmed a 30-year civil conflict that had made the area one of the most militarized places on earth.
While no one talks about a “benefit” of the year-ago tsunami, residents say that if anything good came from the disaster triggered by a massive earthquake, it was a kind of peace that has, by nearly all accounts, taken root in the region.
“For the love of Aceh, people were willing to put down their guns,” Muhammad Redhammarta, 23, a field worker with the Indonesian relief and development organization Mamamia, said as he accompanied a group of relief workers on a tour of several villages in the province.
Asked to rate the long-term chances for peace on a scale of one to ten (with ten expressing the most optimistic), Redhammarta replied: “An eight.”
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.