Faith groups urge dialogue in Indonesia on West Papua

Faith groups urge dialogue in Indonesia on West Papua

Faith groups are calling attention to what they see as injustice for the indigenous people of West Papua at the hands of the Indonesian government.

An Indonesian church group has urged the government and the people of West Papua who are seeking independence to “carry out a dialogue as a commitment to resolve the issue of violence.”

The natives “are still treated unfairly by the government and … treated inhumanely by security officials because [the natives are] accused of having committed treason,” said the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (CCI) on November 7.

“Meanwhile, the government allowed the riches of the land of Papua to be exploited without dividing its fruit fairly with the people of Papua,” the statement said. The “riches” include copper and gold mined by PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI), the Indonesian affiliate of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., a multinational mining company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. The company has been operating the Grasburg mine in Papua since 1973, four years after Indonesia took over Papua, now known as the Indonesian province of West Papua. Thousands of workers have been on strike at the Grasburg mine since September 15.

The November 7 statement called “all the parties to stop all forms of violence in West Papua because the cycle of violence will never solve the problem but it will only lead to new problems.” It also requested President H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono “to cease all military operations” against Papuans.

In a October 21 statement, the communion had expressed concern about violence by the government’s military forces against Papuans in which some were reportedly killed and dozens injured, following the Third Papuan People’s Congress in West Papua’s capital, Jayapura, on 17-19 October. It declared again the establishment of the State Federation of Papua within Indonesia.

On November 1, the World Communion of Reformed Churches called for prayers for churches in Indonesia, saying, “violence in Papua related to a strike in the mining sector and attacks on Christians in west Java have led to death and displacement.”

However, a spokesperson for PT Freeport Indonesia, Ramdani Sirait, said the company appreciates “the support of the Indonesian government and local officials to protect PT FI as a vital national asset.”

In a letter to the Jakarta Post newspaper, published on November 3, he also said all stakeholders should work cooperatively to resolve the current labour issues as soon as possible and restore peace in the Mimika area in West Papua.

On November 3, Socratez Sofyan Yoman, chairman of the Papuan Baptist Church Alliance, wrote to the Jakarta Post that “a settlement with dignity and humanity should be made in a peaceful, unconditional dialogue mediated by a neutral third party.”

By Hisashi Yukimoto, Ecumenical News International

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