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Home » , , , » Ndumma Socratez Sofyan Yoman: A voice of courage

Ndumma Socratez Sofyan Yoman: A voice of courage

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on November 8, 2011 | 4:51 PM

Dumma Socratez S yoman

Images of breathtaking jungle and wildlife spring to mind at the first mention of Papua.

But other than its famous bird of paradise, locally known as cendrawasih, how much do we really know about the island?
Here are some quick facts: West Papua, the easternmost part of Indonesia, is home to approximately 312 tribes who converse in over 253 languages. The island too plays host the world’s largest lizard (Varanus salvadorii) and largest butterfly (Ornithoptera alexandrae), along with an estimated 16,000 different species of plants. Salt and freshwater crocodiles dwell in its extensive waterways and wetlands. It has also been reported that a large part of the equatorial glacier fields in the highlands remain largely unexplored.

But down in the valley, giant corporations have been mining and milling tons of natural resources. Leading the pack is Freeport-McMoRan, one of the world’s largest copper and gold producers.
Over the past few months, the US mining giant has been at the center of a deadly clash involving the National Police and native Papuans. The conflict started when Freeport workers went on a strike to demand major wage increases, which resulted in the shutdown of the facility. The crisis boiled over following the discovery of bullet-ridden bodies of two contract workers in a burning car, and a third corpse strewn nearbyFinding a neutral voice in such a hostile situation is hard. But Ndumma Socratez Sofyan Yoman could very well be that that much-needed voice. Decisive in his words and pragmatic in his view, Socratez poses an intimidating figure. But sit down with him for five minutes and you will be able to identify a genuine compassion in his life philosophy. It comes as no surprise, really, for the 44-year-old Papuan is a priest by profession.

“I’m a shepherd,” says Socratez, who is also a published author, academic, and chairman of the Papuan Baptist Church Alliance. While he may wear many hats, his biggest accomplishment thus far has been the voice of those suffering under the deadly ongoing conflict in Papua over the past forty years.

Born into a modest family in Tiom District, West Papua, Socratez studied English literature at Cendrawasih University, Jayapura. He also pursued a degree in theology at Tyrannus Bible Institute, Bandung, as well as postgraduate study at an esteemed theological school, STT Walter Post, in Jayapura. Growing up, it was unimaginable for Socratez to even dream of a university education. How he got to where he is now is a rather long journey.

“When I was a kid, I had to walk 10 kilometers to go to school every day. I did that for years, and it didn’t feel like a chore then. Sadly, the infrastructure today is not all that different from the time I was a schoolboy,” Socratez said.

“But poor infrastructure is the least of my concern. Speaking on behalf of my church members — the Papuans — our biggest concern is the lack of dignity and humanity in the integration of Papua into Indonesia. This has resulted in the ill-treatment we received from the Indonesian Military and police,” he said.

This seemingly radical sentiment is the idea behind his latest book, West Papua: Persoalan International (West Papua: International Problem), launched in early November.

His latest book contains a strong dose of politics. In fact, alleged injustices in West Papua committed by the government of Indonesia, the United States and the Netherland, as well as the Indonesian Military and the National Police, are well-chronicled in this pocket-sized book.

“One can’t run away from politics when talking about the conflict in Papua. In fact, one can’t run away from international politics when it comes to Papua, as Papua has assumed an international dimension from the start,” he said.

Although the Indonesian government alleged that he was a separatist, Socratez maintained that he was not interested in politics. Therefore, he added, his fight isn’t a political one.

As explained in his latest book, he is essentially a humanitarian fighter who calls a spade a spade. He is quick to point out, however, that he is unapologetic when it comes to the Act of Free Choice (Pepera) in 1969.

“Many Papuans believe that Papua’s integration into Indonesia through the Act of Free Choice in 1969 is not yet final, while the Indonesian government insists that it is. This is where I differ politically from the government,” he said.

Although his political stand is clear when it comes to the integration issue, Socratez is adamant that the key to the conflict in Papua is to have a peaceful dialogue mediated by a neutral third party. He adds that genuine harmony must come from the heart and not from the barrel of a gun.

Blazing the trail for Papuans to defend their basic human rights, Socratez has defined his role as an agent of social change in the face of the Indonesian Military.

The urge not just to cheer on those in power, he said, came from an unspoken pain when witnessing his brothers and sisters treated without justice.

Despite the intensity of conflict, Socratez said it isn’t all gloom and doom in Papua, as he believes that his people maintain a clear conscience while dealing with the conflict.

“We are still the same kind-hearted, warm and hospitable folks that we have always been – that’s the one thing that nobody can take away from us,” he said.
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