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On Human Rights Day, 147 Catholic priests call for end to violence in Papuan

December 12, 2020

On Human Rights Day, 147 Catholic priests call for end to violence in

Catholic News – December 11, 2020

Arya Kiet — Coinciding with International Human Rights Day today,
December 10, 147 Catholic priests in Papua have called for an end to
violence in Papua and have requested that bishops give more serious
attention to the issue for the sake of the safety of religious community
members in Indonesia’s eastern-most provinces.

In a statement read out by Papuan Peace Network (JDP) Coordinator Pastor
John Bunay during a press conference attended by 20 or so priests
representing various different diocese in Papua who signed the
statement, which was also broadcast on the Jayapura Diocese Social
Communication YouTube Channel, they said, "[We] feel called upon to be a
funnel to articulate the consciousness of the religious community which
is trusted by God".

"We are voicing the cries of the consciousness of pregnant months who
are breastfeeding, small children, parents and young children, people
who are ill, blind, deaf and paralyzed, all those who are powerless who
are currently living in anxiety and fear throughout the land of Papua",
they said.

The statement was signed by priests from various different diocese and
congregations such as the Franciscan, Augustinian, Jesuit and the
Utterances of Godly Union throughout Papua.

They said that the human rights situation in Papua continues to worsen
where in the recent period many people had fallen victim to violence
including servants of the church.

They touched on the death of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani who was shot dead
by the military in Hitadipa Village, Intan Jaya, on September 19, as
well as Rufinus Tigau, a religious educator shot dead on October 26.

Following these shootings, on November 3 Coordinating Minister for
Security, Politics and Legal Affairs, Mahfud MD, met with two bishops
from Papua, namely Mgr. Aloysius Murwito, OFM and Mgr. Petrus Canisius
Mandagi, MSC and Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, the chairperson of the
Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI).

Despite this however, they said that nothing changed. Only three days
later, on November 6, the military leadership declared that it would
continue operations in Papua.

The priests said that the presence of non-organic troop which have
launched military operations have created anxiety among the Papuan
people and are calling on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to withdraw all
non-organic troops from Papua.

They also asked that the military and the pro-independence army halt all
"armed violence and open their hearts to negotiations under a dignified
dialogue which can be mediated by a neutral and independent country or

"Violence will never resolve the problems, instead it will add a million
more sufferings and new problems", they said. "Understand that saving
human lives will not happen at barrel of a gun, sisters and brothers",
they added.

The call by the priests was also conveyed to the KWI who they called on,
"not to say silent or pretend as if they do not understand the injured
feelings of the people of Papuan congregations.

"Why did the respected Sirs of the Indonesian Catholic Church leadership
not respond holistically, seriously, and fully to the prolonged conflict
in the land of Papua during the KWI’s annual meeting?", they asked.

They said they felt surprised and at the same time ignored when they
heard that the KWI had been so quick to declare a position and express
its profound sorrow over the recent incidents of violence against the
Protestant church community in Sigi regency, Central Sulawesi,
"meanwhile grief and anxiety as well as the killings of Papuan human
beings appears to have eluded the attention, protection and compassion
of the KWI", they said.

Meanwhile, to the bishops in Papua they said, "Yearn for the shepherds
who are in the place that is at the forefront of efforts to safeguard
God’s congregation".

The priests said that the Papua problem must be dealt with an approach
that prioritises dignified dialogue, which is not intended to find who
is wrong and who is right, but for the sake of finding concrete truths
which can deliver justice and peace to all parties.

"Dialogue will never kill, dialogue will never injure, and dialogue will
never make us stupid. It is precisely when we use methods that are wrong
like violence which has no humanity, that we leave behind festering
injuries of material as well as spiritual life", they said.

Pastor Paulus Tumayang OFM, one of the signatories of the statement,
said that their call was born out of the experience of real meetings
with congregations in the villages and hamlets of Papua.

"We are not affiliated with any group at all. This is our genuine voice
as servants of God", said the pastor of the St. Petrus and Palus
Argapura Parish from the Jayapura dioceses.

Meanwhile Pastor John Djonga, a pastor activist, said that they felt
they had to speak out because congregations in Papua admit to feeling
that the government does not want to know about their fate.

"There is an impression that the government no longer feels responsible
for this situation. Because of this, we [feel we] must speak up", he

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was
"Imam Katolik di Papua Desak Para Uskup Bersuara Tegas demi Keselamatan
Umat Papua".]


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