02/03/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA

Papuan Church preparing the ground for talks between Jakarta and independence movement

Mathias Hariyadi
President Yudhoyono met a delegation of Catholic and Protestant religious leaders. Christian leaders appreciate the government’s moves, hoping for talks between the two sides. They have not however expressed any views about separatist demands in the resource-rich territory.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Christian religious leaders in Papua are preparing the ground for “real talks” involving Indonesia’s central government and its Papuan administration with the leaders of the Papuan independence movement. Two days ago, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his ministers met Catholic and Protestant religious leaders at the presidential palace in Jakarta for the second time after a tête-à-tête on 16 December 2011.

Once known as Irian Jaya, Indonesia’s easternmost territory is rich in natural resources. Since Indonesia started to push its claims for annexation (achieved in 1969) under then President Sukarno, it has become the scene of a violent military campaign.

Under the repressive regime of General Suharto (1967-1998), the region was invaded by foreign multinational and Indonesian companies, sparking the rise of an independence movement that seeks separation from Indonesia.

According to many Papuans and local religious leaders, their country has been long exploited with natives forced to stand by watching its people abused and its land stripped of its wealth, all in the name of economic progress.

Local tribal leaders have found support in Church leaders for their struggle and rights against the system of exploitation imposed by Jakarta.

In a press release issued by the Papuan Church Synod and the Papuan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, both Mgr Leo Laba Ladjar OFM, archbishop of Jayapura, and Rev Lipiyus Biniluk STh said that Papuan Churches appreciate President Yudhoyono’s willingness to address all Papua issues through dialogue.

Speaking about the two recent meetings, Christian leaders said they were satisfied about the central government’s moves. Church leaders reiterated their support for dialogue, noting that their role is to prepare the ground for a “real dialogue” between government officials and Papuan leaders.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Rev Lipiyus Biniluk STh added that the Church’s role is to promote justice and peace, setting the stage for a series of talks. However, he did not voice an opinion on the Papuan independence from Indonesia.

Fr Neles Tebay Pr, Catholic representative in the Papuan Peace Network, an organisation promoting dialogue between Indonesian and Papuan leaders, said that they had not yet set the agenda for the talks, but “we are working on it."
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