Catholic students in Indonesia say listen to people of Papua

Indonesian Catholic students have called on the government to listen to the grievances of the people of Papua and resolve longstanding conflicts.

The call was made at the end of a four-day Catholic Student Association of the Republic of Indonesia conference in Jayapura on July 31.

Conference participants — association members from 70 chapters across the country — said the central government should dissolve the current investigative team formed by the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, and sit down with the Papuans.

An ongoing conflict in West Papua between the Indonesian government and indigenous groups seeking independence or greater autonomy has led to many rights abuses, according to rights groups and Papuan activists.

Catholic students have also urged President Widodo to remove restrictions and allow foreign journalists free access to Papua.

“We demand [the] government gives access to foreign journalists so they can visit Papua, without interference, including from the military,” Angelo Wake Kako, the association’s chairman, said on July 31.

Mario Yumte, a member of the association’s Jayapura chapter, said Papua’s longstanding conflicts need to end with dignity.

Catholic students see it as their duty to encourage the relevant parties to sit down, talk heart to heart, and listen to each other, she said.

“If we are silent on the Papua conflict it means we do not care about humanity,” said Yumte.

Father John Djonga, a human rights advocate, said Aug. 1 that he appreciated the Catholic students’ concerns about Papua. But he also reminded students to build intensive communication with local Papuan leaders.

Communication with local leaders, he said, is important because there is so much poverty and injustice in Papua that needs immediate attention.

According to the priest, there have been efforts to have a dialogue mediated by third party, but the Indonesian government has not listened.

This made the Papuans seek international attention regarding their struggle especially in the Pacific region, Father Djonga said.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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