Jakarta – The Tabernacle Bible Church of Indonesia (GKII) suspects that Reverend Yeremia Zanambani from the Intan Jaya regency in Papua was shot dead by members of the TNI (Indonesian military) on Saturday September 19. As a result of the shooting, the church's congregation has fled to the forests in fear.
This contradicts a statement issued earlier by the TNI who said that Zanambani was shot by a criminal armed group (KKB) – the Indonesian government's term for the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
The information on the shooting was first uploaded on the GKII's Facebook account @gkiipusat.
GKII national secretariat head Yahya Jahatela confirmed the information saying that Zanambani was shot as he was going to his pig pen.
"Yes, that's correct. Currently we are still waiting on written information and data from Papua, but the information is indeed correct", said Jahatela when contacted by CNN Indonesia by phone on Monday September 21.
Jahatela said that following the incident, seven or eight churches are empty with their congregations seeking refuge in the forest. "The congregations have fled into the forests because they're afraid", he said.
The GKII considers the incident to be a serious blow for church services in Intan Jaya and they are distressed about the loss of a spiritual figure for the Moni tribal people.
Zanambani was the head of the GKII church for the Hitadipa regency in Intan Jaya and was known as an evangelist who was dedicated and had integrity as well as a translator of the Bible into the Moni local language.
Jahatela said that they intend to write to the government after obtaining the complete data from the Papua GKII.
"[We're] praying for the planned burial tomorrow and hope that the security forces can be prudent and behave fairly in safeguarding innocent people", wrote the GKII central office on its Facebook account on Sunday September 20.
Earlier, III Joint Regional Defense Command (Kogabwihan) information head Colonel Czi IGN Suriastawa said that Zanambani was shot dead by an armed criminal group in Hitadipa.
According to Suriastawa, armed criminal groups have been spreading slander by accusing the TNI of shooting Zanambani.
"As I said yesterday, they are looking for momentum to attract attention from the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of the month", said Suriastawa in an official press release on Sunday.
Suriastawa appealed to local people not to be provoked by the slander, particularly through social media.
"It's clear that its being setup and manipulated to provoke the people, corner the TNI and Polri [Indonesian police] and government in the lead up to the UN SU (general session)", he said.
Suriastawa said that the death of Zanambani adds to the long list of victims of the ferocity of armed criminal groups. He noted that several days ago, Papuan armed criminal groups attacked a civilian and two TNI soldiers. (pmg/sur)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Gereja Duga Pendeta Tewas di Intan Jaya Papua Ditembak TNI".]