06/01/2010, 00.00
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Mission on the island of Papua, in remote villages deep in the jungle

by Mathias Hariyadi
Papuans are often neglected, inadequate health and education facilities. But religious and lay missionaries also face hour long journey’s on foot and by boat, to bring material aid and the Christian faith.

Papua (AsiaNews) - Travelling for hours, deep in the jungle, on foot or in boats to reach remote villages.  This is 'what religious and lay people on the island of Papua do so as the poor are "not forgotten". The inhabitants of the province of Papua (the easternmost and most remote island of Indonesia) are neglected by authorities and citizens of the more "developed" islands such as Java, Bali, Sumatra, Borneo / Kalimantan, many living in poverty, with poor health and education services.  The island is rich in natural resources such as gold, timber, natural gas, yet this wealth does not benefit local residents. But both Catholics and Protestants priests and nuns are also present among these "forgotten" people. Ù

The Catholic Church has organized health services, but this pastoral work was until recently limited to the sub-district of Mayamuk, Strong regency, in West Papua. Since February the their activities have spread to remote areas, organized by Indonesian Jesuits, the Sisters of Charles Borromeo (SCB) and the local Catholic parish of St. Francis Xavier Makbusun in Sorong.

Father Joseph Wiharjono, pastor of St. Francis Xavier, told AsiaNews that religious and laity have been active in assisting the sick and the poorest among the inhabitants of the area, being careful to "never leave them behind," not to forget them. The priest, a native of Java, has spent much of his religious life in the eastern provinces of the country, especially the Moluccas and Papua. Arga Satpada is a former Jesuit student, a native of Java, who then decided to become a farmer in the remote areas.  He is active in the pastoral mission and said that some villages can be reached only on foot, walking for hours through the jungle, such as Klamoto V and Segun. He says that  in order to get to "the nearest place in the Makbusun sub district we have to walk and then take a small boat and travel deep in to the jungle."  They offer totally free health care for many patients who are in remote these villages.

Sister Annunsianes, of the SCB, said that among their first concerns is teaching basic hygiene to the remote Papuans.  She comments that "many Indonesians believe that we have fun teaching these people how to brush their teeth." She also explains the dangers of smoking. " Smoking is a widespread habit of Papuans, even among young people. Others drink too much alcohol or gamble”.

To reach Pantai Mariat she must travel 14 km on a motorbike. For Modan III the journey is 30 km on a motorbike.  There, Sister Annuncianes runs education and healthcare clinics where "at least 21 patients are treated with a payment of not more than 5 thousand Indonesian rupiahs (about 32 cents).

Father Vincent Nuhuyanan leads his team to Segun: it takes them two hours to reach their destination through rivers and deep jungle.

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