Catholic leaders in West Papua need to speak out on human rights issues ‎

A priest in Jayapura has added his voice to the growing call for the Catholic church to speak out about human rights issues in West Papua.

Father Nico Syukur Dister who is is Professor at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Jayapura accepts there are a variety of opinions on the question of independence for for West Papua.

While he understands why church leaders see it as their duty to unify the people, he says, “the real politics in West Papua make it impossible for the churches to remain neutral.”

Dister pointed out that leaders of three Papua churches (GIDI, Baptist and KINGMI), whose members and leaders are predominantly native Papuans, recently released a pastoral letter condemning the ongoing violence and discrimination against Papuans.

“As far as I know, the Catholic Church seldom or even never made such a clear statement,” he said. “Why is that the case?”

Dister’s comments were made after Catholics staged a protest outside the annual bishops’ meeting in Jayapura.

They were protesting because the bishops had not spoken out against the marginalisation and social injustice they suffer.

“The bishops stay silent instead of speaking up more about injustices faced by indigenous people. They let our dignity be torn up by unfair developments in areas such as health, education and even politics,” protest organizer, Christianus Dogopia said.

Responding to the protesters, Bishop  Aloysius Murwito of Agats-Asmat he and other bishops will work together with priests and parishes to deal with the issues.

“We will pay more serious attention to their demands,” he said.

(A translation of the words on the placard the protesters are holding in the image above has been supplied. It says: “Where are the shepherds when their sheep are being hunted by wolves?”)


Image: Vatican Radio

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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