ASIA/INDONESIA - Tense situation in Papua: Catholics are trying to resolve the conflict

Monday, 29 May 2023 human rights   indigenous  

Jayapura (Agenzia Fides) - "The conflict in the Indonesian Papua region is destined to increase in intensity, due to the growing deployment of members of the Indonesian security forces, after the case of the kidnapping of New Zealand pilot Philip Mark Mahrtens, seized by the Army of Papuan Liberation (TPN-PB) last February. The issues to be addressed are varied and complex. The sense of justice of the Papuan people has been severely violated. For example, people suspected of human rights abuses in Paniai, a small town in Puncak Jaya district, in 2014 were released without charge by the local court. The right to freedom of expression of student groups was suppressed by local authorities. Several officials were arrested on corruption charges, including the governor of Papua, Lukas Enembe, and the regent of Central Memberamo, Ricky Ham Pagawak. In addition, due to the violence, school classes in the Pegunungan Bintang regency are being disrupted, while the central government-sponsored program of transmigration to the new autonomous regions will result in increasing displacement of the indigenous Papuans," said Father Alexandro F. Rangga OFM, Coordinator of the "General Office for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation" of the Friars Minor in West Papua, a region of Indonesia tormented by violence and instability.
The government in Jakarta has tried to solve the problem by approving the "Second Special Autonomy" and creating the "New Autonomous Region" in 2022. According to the religious, these political measures "have so far not helped to ease tensions, but have created further divisions between supporters and opponents". In addition, the idea of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua, planned by the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, fell through because no ceasefire was reached in the armed conflict between the Papuan Liberation Army and the Indonesian Army. In this context last February, Bishop Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You became the first local bishop to be appointed bishop of the diocese of Jayapura, the capital of Papua. When he took office, the bishop emphasized that he would work to make the Papua region a "land of peace" after decades of internal conflict. He resumed the campaign of the same title, launched in 2006, to try to prevent and end the violence through small gestures, meetings, informal talks and connecting with the realities of Papuan society.
In the local Catholic faith community, many actors are trying to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. The Franciscan Commission for "Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation" continues to work with other NGOs and published a report entitled "Terpasung di Rumah Sendiri" ("Trapped in our home"), which documents episodes and chronicles of citizens who have suffered injustice, violence and oppression at the hands of Indonesian authorities in recent years. The Franciscan network seeks to monitor human rights abuses, drawing on international recommendations from the UN. Thanks to the NGO "Franciscans International" accredited by the United Nations, the local Franciscans will participate in the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2023 and will present a report on the situation on the ground in Papua.
At the same time, the commission takes care of the pastoral and social support of the victims and plans to organize interreligious youth meetings and meetings with writers in the coming weeks. In addition, videos and podcasts will be produced dealing with peacebuilding issues, and a conference is planned - to be held in June 2023 - as an opportunity to explore and discuss possible paths to peace in Papua.
The Papua region (the western part of the large island of New Guinea, ed) became Indonesian sovereignty in 1969 thanks to a controversial referendum known as the "Act of Free Choice" in which 1,025 people were chosen by the Indonesian military to serve as Indonesian control of the region agreed.
A few months after the Indonesian annexation, the first pro-independence groups of the "Free Papua Movement" formed, which was shortly followed by the emergence of an armed movement, the "West Papua National Liberation Army" (TPN-PB). According to various sources, the ensuing conflict has claimed between 100,000 and 400,000 victims to date. According to UN observers and international organizations such as Amnesty International, the Indonesian response was "completely disproportionate". In the last 20 years, the repression against the indigenous population has also gone hand in hand with an Indonesian colonization policy that has encouraged a massive exodus of the Javanese population to Papua: while in 1971 the proportion of the indigenous population was 97%, today it is just over 50% . In this way, the government in Jakarta has tried to weaken the secessionist aspirations of the native Papuans. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/5/2023)