Church leaders in Papua, in a position statement directed toward government officials, said "the current situation is a human tragedy," expressed grave concern about extrajudicial killings and other violence, and called for immediate measures for a sustainable peace.
"The current situation is not the result of one particular incident, such as the case of a pilot being taken hostage," reads the statement. "It is the result of a long history."
The statement notes that, during the last four years, the situation has deteriorated drastically.
"According to our observations as religious leaders, after the racist incident in August 2019, developments were dominated by the application of a scenario that no longer intended to find a solution to the conflict or intended to find out the roots of the conflict (roots of racism, roots of discrimination, roots of marginalization, roots of increased political protest)," reads the statement. "The intention turned out to be to control the entire territory of Papua and paralyse all political resistance."
The church leaders note that the role of the civil government in Papua has been reduced to the point that it is now disappearing.
"Moreover, more and more innocent people, civilians, have become victims," notes the statement. "It turns out that Papuans can be arrested, beaten, accused of treason without any proper investigation."
The church leaders urge recognizing the dignity of everyone involved.
"Of course news from the people on the ground is one of the true benchmarks for us, as leaders of the religious community, because they simply talk about their experiences, not about fantasies," reads the statement. "The truth is very important to establish together, because it is the key to peace."
The statement also urges a policy that is based on the root causes of the conflict.
"A number of constitutional rights have been removed and the atmosphere of democracy has declined significantly," reads the statement. "These two elements are deeply felt in Papua."
The church leaders call for restoring all basic constitutional rights. "An important part to restore the situation should be a focus on those who are internally displaced so that they receive the necessary services they need until they can return to their villages," continues the statement. "It is impossible for a negotiation to be carried out where the threat of the authorities is at the door."
The statement ends will a call for the dignity of every human being to be placed above anything else. "This is a top priority!" the statement concludes.
Statement by the Church leaders in Papua: https://www.oikoumene.org/sites/default/files/2023-05/Papua-Pastoral-Letter-_Pernyataan_Sikap_Pemimpin_Gereja_Tanah_Papua-26_April_2023.pdf