Mathias Hariyadi, Jakarta – Fr Chrisanctus Paschalis Saturnus, a priest from the Diocese of Pangkal Pinang, on Galang Island, has allegedly been involved in human trafficking.
Police questioned the clergyman in connection with the allegations, which seem surprising given that he heads the diocese's migrant commission.
In fact, Fr Saturnus is very active in offering support to victims of human trafficking in a place like Galang; part of the Riau Archipelago, the island is considered the main transit point for Indonesian migrant workers going to Singapore or Malaysia.
The accusations against the priest sparked a peaceful protest involving other religious. One of them, Sister Laurantina, is a member of the Order of the Sisters of Divine Providence; she is also a well-known activist who has been fighting human trafficking since 2017.
Concerned about the defamation of which Fr Saturnus is the victim, she organised a rally in front of police headquarters in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara Province (NTT).
She was also moved to act by Card Suharyo, archbishop of Jakarta, who in his pastoral letter for Lent urged all Catholics to fight human trafficking, one of the most serious crimes against humanity.
"Our poorest, most vulnerable and disabled sisters, as well as women of all ages and children, migrants, refugees and our sisters who come from disharmonious families, are very vulnerable to being exploited by human trafficking practices," wrote the cardinal.
Sister Laurentina also started a public petition, asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo to stop the accusations against the priest, who is being treated like a criminal, something she deems unacceptable.
So far, more than 7,000 people have signed a petition launched on the change.org website, including over a hundred religious leaders, priests and nuns.
Fr Saturnus has also received the support of the Catholic Youth organisation, which said that "human trafficking is a serious crime that goes against all religious faiths."
Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has also expressed solidarity with the priest. One of its members, Anis Hidayah, notes that Fr Saturnus should be defended by the country's authorities.