Manokwari (Agenzia Fides) - May the new church dedicated to Saint Joseph "be the temple of a community from which peace and reconciliation radiate in Papua": this is the message addressed to the local population by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Pioppo, during the solemn Inauguration Eucharist of the new Catholic Church of Saint Joseph in the village of Ayawasi, in the Diocese of Manokwari-Sorong, West Papua. "We hope it will maintain and encourage the evangelical spirit of the community, the spirit of prayer and charity. We ask the Lord to encourage us to always go forward, in times of difficulty, by considering ourselves and always treating each other as brothers", said the Archbishop during the celebration that took place in recent days. The presence of a new church, inaugurated after nine years of planning and construction, "will be able to inspire local people to further deepen their faith and spirituality, to live with love and humility in their relationship with their neighbor: thus promoting reconciliation and peace on the land of Papua", he remarked.
The five bishops of the region were present at the celebration, as well as many priests, nuns and hundreds of faithful. The Bishop of Manokwari-Sorong, Msgr. Hilarion Datus Lega, thanked the Catholics of the parish of Ayawasi who contributed with their ideas and resources to the construction of the church. The new church was built on an area of one hectare, measures 28x42 meters, is 28 meters high, and can accommodate up to 1,200 people. The construction process, which encountered various obstacles and delays, the latest relating to the outbreak of the pandemic, was not interrupted thanks to the cohesion of the community. Several organizations contributed to the funds, including private donors (75% was donated by the faithful) and public donors, such as provincial, district and municipal administrations in the region.
The diocese of Manokwari-Sorong is located in the province of west Papua and covers an area with a total population of 761 thousand inhabitants, including 80 thousand Catholics. The territory of West Papua is plagued by tensions and demonstrations that see the local population against the central government in Jakarta.
Indonesia intervened in Papua in 1962, following a referendum, the western part of the large island of New Guinea voted to be part of Indonesia. Soon after, in 1963, the "Free Papua Movement" appeared in the region and began guerrilla actions.
According to human rights organizations, the Papuan people - of Austronesian ethnicity - have long suffered discrimination, racism and stigmatization from security officers and members of other Indonesian ethnic groups, who arrived in Papua thanks to a of "colonization" policy promoted by the central government. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/7/2023)