Vatican News staff reporter – The Church in the province of Papua in Indonesia is calling on military leaders and rebel groups to declare a truce to avoid the risk of escalation of violence in the region.
Church leaders have expressed concern that a recent move by the government to add separatists to a list of terrorist groups could exacerbate tensions in the eastern Indonesia. A note from the Diocese of Timika, Papua, describes the decision as "an unproductive move that could undermine the efforts of religious leaders to forge peace in the region."
Separatist groups, including the West Papua National Liberation Army, have claimed responsibility for attacks on military targets, but have also been accused of attacking unarmed civilians.
In April, the West Papua NLA ambushed and killed the military's resident intelligence chief, General Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, prompting a forceful response from the government. Human rights groups have raised concerns that the army will carry out reprisals against civilians in response to the assassination.
Papua has been the scene of protests against human rights violations and abuses by the Indonesian military.
In a letter sent to the Fides News Agency, the Apostolic Administrator of Timika, Father Marthen Kuayo, says Church leaders in the diocese "are deeply concerned about the recent violence and the response that has increased tension in Papua in recent weeks." He adds, "Civilians are the first innocent victims of clashes between rebels and security forces," and often innocent families are displaced or even victims of the crossfire.
Father Kuayo says the local Church is calling on both military and separatist leaders "to show restraint and observe a ceasefire in order to find together a dignified, humane, open and respectful solution."