Jakarta (AsiaNews) - After days of silence, dozens of Catholic and Protestant religious leaders in Papua, along with fellow Muslims, have denounced the inaction of the central government in Jakarta, unable so far to stem the tide of violence in the province. In the last two weeks alone, clashes and ambushes have killed at least eight people, but the toll is still provisional. Known as "Dutch New Guinea" in the days of colonialism, Indonesian Papua is a resource rich region, but is still underdeveloped and poor compared to the rest of the archipelago. The regioni s also plauged by tensions - which leads to violence - between the authorities related to the central government and movements claiming an ever greater territorial self-government.
The Islamic-Christian activists gathered in the offices of the Diocese of Jayapura on June 10 last year and, after the meeting, they decided to take a firm stand against the perpetrators - so far unpunished - of violence. The closed door meeting was also attended by the local bishop, Mgr. Leo Laba Ladjar, also "concerned" about the escalation of fatal accidents. The leaders of the interfaith committee also encouraged the promotion of a culture of love and respect among the different ethnic groups that characterize the province of Papua.
Other attendees included Pastor Albert Yoku, head of the synod of the churches in Indonesia, the Rev. Lipiyus Binilux, the Reverend Herman Saud and other Muslim leaders, including Abdul Dudung Koha, Jayapura section of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) . Basimo, a local Muslim leader, spoke to AsiaNews of the need to "nurture a culture of love and tolerance" but also warns that "it is better not to go out at night, unless absolutely necessary " until that the situation will improves.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian intelligence chief, General Norman Marciano, points the finger at the "separatist groups", he claims are leading of the wave of violence in Papua in recent weeks. Among these there is also the armed independence movement for a Free Papua (OPM). However, the group leader Lambert Pekikir rejects these accusations and claims that he does not know anything about "alleged shootings." The tension is likely to rise in the coming weeks, the anniversary of July 1, when OPM celebrates their founding.
In 2001 the authorities in Jakarta granted a "special autonomy" for the province, but its practical application has never materialized and the indigenous people continue to report "unfair treatment". The area was the scene of a violent military campaign in the days of Sukarno, who led the annexation in 1969 by exploiting a United Nations Interim Directive. The iron fist used by the Suharto regime between 1967 and 1998 and the massive invasion of foreign multinationals and companies in Indonesia have encouraged the emergence of a separatist movement. The current name of Papua was sanctioned in 2002 by former president Abdurrahman Wahid.