On Christmas Eve, the body of Catholic seminarian Zhage Sil, was found in a ditch in Jayapura, in the Indonesian province of Papua. According to the local police, the perpetrators of the crime are still unknown.
The news of Sil's death shocked Catholics in Papua and throughout Indonesia. Beka Ulung Hapsara, National Commissioner for Human Rights in Indonesia asked that "the police quickly investigate and find the perpetrators of the murder. There is an urgent need to apply the law in a fair and transparent manner."
The community of Sorong-Manokwari, the diocese to which Sil belonged, has received many messages of condolence from religious and lay leaders condemning the killing.
"I am shocked by his sudden and tragic death. He would have become a deacon next year and a diocesan priest immediately after", said Fr Johan, parish priest in the diocese of Jayapura, Papua. Fr Johan, who knew Sil personally, added: "He was a courageous person who cared about people's needs and was not afraid to raise his voice, especially when it came to justice. We hope to receive clear news about his death soon."
Sil was among the young people often engaged in demanding justice for the province of Papua, and protesting over racism against the Papuan people.
The news of the murder went viral on social media and once again drew attention to the plight of Indonesian Papuans. In October, lay Catholic Rufinus Tigau, a catechist in the district was also killed for no reason by the national security forces.
At the beginning of December, a strong appeal for dialogue and reconciliation in order to resolve the conflict in the Indonesian region of Papua was launched by 147 Indonesian Catholic priests, working in Papua.
There have been numerous episodes of violence and continuous violations of human rights perpetrated by Indonesian security forces, who have killed and injured civilians and pastoral workers of Catholic and Protestant churches in this area of the country, which has a strong Christian presence.
In Papua, there have been disputes between the local population and central government of Jakarta for years. The central government has responded to the separatist turmoil with a military presence that has increased tension.
The diocese of Manokwari-Sorong is located in the province of West Papua. It covers an area of 111 thousand square kilometres, with a total population of 761,000 inhabitants, including about 79,000 Catholics.