Priest braves threats, serves Jesus

A Catholic priest in Indonesia’s disputed Papua province is braving police interrogations and frequent threats of violence.

He serves both civilians and combatants who want to end Indonesian rule.

Father John Djonga of Jayapura Diocese has worked in the remote area for more than 30 years.

Its population is poor, despite the land being rich in natural resources.

Father Djonga arrived as a catechist in 1988 from his home on Flores, east of Komodo Island.

A shortage of priests inspired him to attend a seminary and he achieved ordination in 1990.

Risky business for priest

Performing religious duty in the Christian-majority Papua is risky.

Indonesia annexed it more than 50 years ago.

Pro-independence fighters continue despite police reporting many arrests.

The International Coalition for Papua says police arrested more than 5,300 people in 2016. Most of them were protesting peacefully.

Father Djonga says he meets many people claiming persecution and torture at the hands of the local security forces.

He says authorities must discpline soldiers who cross the line.

He says while few priests choose to fraternize with the insurgents, they are part of his flock and in need of service.

“I am close to them. I’m also close to the soldiers and to the police,” he says.

Though some soldiers and some insurgents are Muslim, Father Djonga says when he talks about humanity there are no barriers.

Yet he does receive regular death threats and other forms of intimidation.

In 2007 he complained to the Papua governor about the military’s tactics.

So, he says, he received a terrifying phone call from an unidentified military. The caller threatened to bury him 700 metres deep.

He has worked here for 30 years and seen no significant change to poverty levels.

Father Djonga believes Jesus would have encouraged the faithful, who are able, to get involved. They are needed to help in the troubled province now mired in social and political problems.


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  • UCA News
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News category: Asia Pacific.