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Violence reaching new levels in West Papua

Catholic Leader - May 5, 2021

Mark Bowling – Church human rights activists have demanded an end to violence and killing in Indonesia's easternmost Papua and West Papua provinces following an escalation of rebel attacks and a military crackdown.

"This violence reached new heights with the killing of a senior Indonesian intelligence officer in West Papua a few days ago," Brisbane archdiocese's Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt said.

The killing of the Papua Regional Intelligence Agency head, I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, on April 25, was blamed on separatists who have conducted a decades-long insurgency against Indonesian rule.

A senior Catholic official in Papua, Fr Marthen Kuayo, apostolic administrator of Timika Diocese called for a ceasefire after the Indonesian Government ordered a "crackdown" on the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army and the Free Papua Movement (TPNPB-OPM) and branded the groups as terrorists.

Fr Kuayo said efforts to forge peace in the troubled region required "a dignified, humane, open and respectful solution together"

Indonesian security forces first set foot in Papua in the early 1960s.

"Since that day up to the present, the peoples of West Papua have lived with much violence, repression and marginalisation," Mr Arndt, who has visited the troubled region and documented abuses there, said.

"We understand the immense frustration and anger that so many Papuans feel after decades of this injustice and thousands and thousands of lives lost."

Thousands of Papuans have fled their villages in the past two years to escape sweeping operations and violence by Indonesian security forces.

"These internally displaced women, men and children are very vulnerable and have faced deprivation and even death despite the efforts by churches and community organisations and groups to provide them with support," Mr Arndt said.

In February, Catholic leaders in Papua province signed a letter appealing for an end to the ongoing conflict between the military and separatist groups.

Their call followed criticism by priests and laypeople of the way bishops and the Indonesian Bishops' Conference had turned a blind eye to the rising conflict, including an incident in Intan Jaya and Puncak district in which a soldier, a man accused of being a military spy and three civilians were killed, forcing thousands forced to flee.

"Violent struggle will never succeed. Violence will give birth to violence again and so continue. Therefore we urge all parties to stop the violence," the Catholic leaders wrote.

Their letter was signed by Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura, Bishop Aloysius Murwito of Agats, Father Marthen Kuayo, apostolic administrator of Timika Diocese, and Father Hengky Kariwop, vicar general of Merauke Archdiocese.

Mr Arndt urged the Australian Government to press Indonesia to end its security approach in West Papua, and for the United Nations and other governments to intervene for peace.

"We urge Catholics, our fellow Christians and people of faith to join with Papuan churches in seeking God's mercy through prayer and fasting," he said.

"We also ask them to approach their federal members of parliament and senators to urge them to encourage the Australian Government to engage with the Indonesian Government and other governments, especially in the Pacific, to pursue this alternative course.

"We will continue to communicate with our Catholic and Protestant sisters and brothers in West Papua to offer them our support and solidarity.

"May our loving and merciful God bless the people of West Papua with peace."

Source: https://catholicleader.com.au/news/world/violence-reaching-new-levels-in-west-papua