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Home » , , , , , , » Don’t Demean Us, Papuan Church Leaders Tell SBY

Don’t Demean Us, Papuan Church Leaders Tell SBY

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on December 19, 2011 | 5:18 PM

Rev. Socratez S Yoman
In stark contrast to government figures who say Papuan unrest stems from a lack of prosperity among native inhabitants, senior Papuan church figures say the real problem is a history of injustice and the island’s problematic integration into Indonesia.

“The problems in Papua are not to do with wealth, but respect for human dignity, justice and an unclear history of integration that is still disputed,” Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, the head of Papua’s Baptist church, said in a press conference on Saturday in Jakarta.
The press conference followed a private meeting a day earlier between four church figures, three of them Papuan, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the national leader’s private residence in Cikeas, Bogor.

The two-hour meeting, which was closed to media, also included Vice President Boediono, the national chiefs of the armed forces and police, and a number of cabinet ministers including Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs and Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for the economy.

The four church leaders said they had provided a detailed picture of the numerous acts of violence and conflict that had afflicted Papuans for generations.

“We told the president that since 1961, the situation has been unsafe in Papua because of the stigma of separatism,” Rev. Yemima Krey, head of the Protestant Synod in Papua, said at the press conference.

Yemima went on to say that she believed — at the risk of being seen as discriminatory — that the government should consider a policy to limit the arrival of transmigrants from other islands in the archipelago. She called it a necessary step in order to protect Papuan culture and the political and economic position of the Papuan people.

“The proportion of Papuans is falling as the number of migrants increases, so that many Papuans are questioning their existence in their own land,” Yemima said.

It is shifting geopolitical winds such as this that are planting the seeds of resistance in the Papuan community, according to Benny Giay, head of the Kingmi Synod in Papua.

Benny maintained that Papuan nationalism was misinterpreted as separatism by Jakarta.

Benny added that he and his three colleagues had told Yudhoyono that the president’s establishment of the Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B) was misguided, unfair and undemocratic because the Papuan people had not been consulted or involved.

“And along with the UP4B the military were sent as well,” Benny added.

He said Jakarta had failed to adopt a humanitarian approach to Papua, with the result that every passing day brought more news of Papuans killed in conflict with the state.

“We are witnessing the extinction of a nation. We are being slaughtered,” Benny said. “Our church exists in the midst of a never-ending cycle of violence.”

According to Socratez, while Yudhoyono had been receptive to the religious figures’ description of the problems in Papua, the president had stopped short of accepting their main proposal: Holding mediation talks involving a third party. “The Papuan people must be given room to experience justice,” Socratez said. “Don’t demean them and treat them as enemies of the state. This must be stopped.”

Meeting participant and non-Papuan Gumar Gultom, the head of the Indonesian Protestant Church Union (PGI), said there were “positive signs” from Yudhoyono at the meeting.

“This is just the first meeting. The president promised a follow-up meeting to get into more details on the issues we put forward,” Gumar said, adding that he expected the next meeting would be in early January.
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