The clergymen want the government to promote a culture of tolerance between different ethnic groups, and boost Papuan social inclusion through dialogue and education. Ethnic Papuans are often mocked as "monkeys". They also demand the release of Buchtar Tabuni and other political prisoners arrested in 2019.
Jayapura (AsiaNews) – A group of priests from Papua province yesterday launched an appeal to stop all forms of racism, injustice and violence against ethnic Papuans.
The Five dioceses in Indonesian Papua took part in the initiative in the wake of Pope Francis’s condemnation of the recent killing in the United States of an African-American man, George Floyd, by some police officers.
A strong pro-independence movement has developed in West Papua, the western part of the island of New Guinea, after it was placed under Indonesian control in 1962 following the departure of the Dutch, with the indigenous population feeling discriminated by the Indonesian government.
On the basis of the Document on human fraternity, signed on 4 February, 2019 by Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Papuan priests want national and local leaders to promote a culture of tolerance and peace among various ethnic groups, and encourage Papuan social inclusion and development through dialogue and education.
They also urge the national government to take steps to fight the violation of Papuan human rights and the criminalisation of ethnic Papuans.
The authors of the appeal also express concern about the fate of Buchtar Tabuni, a leader in the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. Along with other activists, he was arrested in September 2019 for organising a series of anti-racism protests the preceding month, which were marred by acts of violence.
According to the priests, the protests led by Tabuni were peaceful. Pro-independence groups and agent provocateurs allegedly infiltrated the protests, attacking non-Papuans and setting fires on the streets.
Thousands of Papuans had taken to the streets to protest the treatment of Papuan students in Surabaya (East Java) a few days earlier by a local crowd that had gathered in front of a students' dormitory calling them "monkeys".
News of the incident reverberated across Indonesia, causing resentment among Papuans.
Papuan priests demand that Tabuni and six political prisoners be freed. They believe that it was unfair that these activists received sentences ranging from five to 17 years, whilst those responsible for the racist attack in Surabaya were given only five months in prison.