West Papua: Christian leaders call for end to violence

The Council of Churches has drawn up a document asking Jakarta to hold peace talks between the government and indigenous people. A stance for general harmony, not in favor of a single group. Pastor Alberto John Bunai: "The Church must be a bearer of peace and a supporter of justice". 


Jayapura (AsiaNews) - Local Christian leaders are calling for an end to military operations against the natives of West Papua and the possibility of holding peace talks. The local Council of Churches has drawn up a document in which it calls on the Indonesian government to put an end to violence in the localities of Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak, Kiwirok and Maybrat. A document that adds to another similar pronouncement already circulated by 194 local Catholic priests.

"Stop the military incursions. Release the civilians who were unjustly arrested in Maybrat. In Kiwirok hundreds of residents' homes were bombed by the Security Forces. Rockets were fired from the air by helicopters, but many did not explode," Pastor Alberto John Bunai told a press conference.

"Hundreds of civilians are said to have fled to Papua New Guinea. There are no estimates yet on the number of deaths and homes destroyed. Many people are sick and have starved to death in the forests. Right now people are in need of humanitarian aid."

"What is needed is dialogue and reconciliation to solve the root of the problem," Bunai added, after 58 years of ideological and political conflicts led to armed clashes between the government and indigenous people. "The main role of the Church is to be a bearer of peace and advocate for justice, it cannot remain silent in the face of these realities, we must speak for those who have no voice," commented the pastor.

According to religious leaders who signed the document, "the Indonesian government is increasingly implementing a policy of systematic racism, criminalization, marginalization and militarization in the context of the political occupation of West Papua." The Council of Churches is asking Jakarta "to listen to the voices of Papuans who reject the province's special autonomy," after these "have been silenced by the military." "At the same time, we also called for a worthy peace dialogue between the Indonesian government and the United Liberation Movement of West Papua."

The Christian leaders at the press conference went on to make it clear that they were speaking for the good and safety of all, not for the political interests of individuals or groups in particular: "We desire an atmosphere of security, so that there will be peace, justice and harmony in Papua."

They went on to say that because of the interests of an elite group involved in gold mining, indigenous Papuans have lost their rights to the land: "Papuans have become victims because of the exploitation of natural resources, perpetrated without justice or transparency," as revealed by various research conducted by different non-governmental organizations. 

In the document, they denounce "the projects of Islamization" of the country and the repression of Christian churches: "In various parts of Indonesia, the construction of churches has been prohibited, which have also been destroyed, burned, bombed." 

"Our hope is that all parties, including those undermining security and peace, will cooperate with each other," said Franciscan Agustinus Yerwuan: "The Indonesian police and army and the West Papuan National Liberation Army must reach a ceasefire and end the war."