Religious figures, activists call for dialogue to end violence in Papua

Incidents of violence continue in Papua as a result of conflict between armed separatist groups and the military and police.


eligious figures and prominent human rights activists call for peace in Papua on Nov. 9 during a press briefing in Jakarta. PHOTO: PGI/ ID/ THE JAKARTA POST

November 13, 2023

JAKARTA – A number of religious figures and prominent human rights activists have called for dialogue to end violence in Papua, where incidents of violence continue as a result of conflict between armed separatist groups and the military and police.

They urged the central government, pro-Papuan-independence groups, armed rebel groups and indigenous Papuans and their leaders to start building trust in Indonesia’s easternmost region.

The call for peace and dialogue was raised during a press briefing at the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) office on Thursday in Jakarta. Among the notable figures who participated in the joint statement were former first lady Sinta Nuriyah Abdurrahman Wahid and her daughter Alissa Wahid, who is a prominent activist and one of the female leaders of the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), activist Usman Hamid and former attorney general turned human rights campaigner Marzuki Darusman.

“We call on the government and the conflicting parties in Papua to continue the peace process,” Sinta said at the event, as quoted from a press release.

“As a first step, we urge the conflicting parties to start building trust. State actors need to work together with all sectors of the nation to address the humanitarian crisis and resume exploratory talks toward peaceful dialogue,” Sinta said while reading the statement on Thursday.

“These talks should be facilitated by trusted and impartial mediators […] in order to build trust and confidence among parties to the conflict,” she said, adding that they should also include Papuan religious figures and leaders and those representing Papuan women.

Sinta also expressed regret over the deaths of Papuans that were caused by extreme hunger last month.

A months-long famine in Papua Highlands province’s Yahukimo regency has killed at least 23 residents, forcing the government to scramble to provide disaster relief and plan for long-term solutions to avoid similar disasters in the area in the future.

PGI chairman Gomar Gultom, monsignor Siprianus Hormat of the Indonesian Bishops Conference’s (KWI) commission for justice and peace and Jayapura Bishop monsignor Yanuarius You also attended the Thursday event. The PGI and the KWI respectively represent the Protestant and Catholic churches, and Yanuarius is the first native Papuan to head the Jayapura Diocese since Catholicism took root in Papua over a century ago.

Former diplomat turned activist Makarim Wibisono, philosopher Franz-Magnis Suseno and Abdul Mu’ti, who is the secretary-general of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Muslim organization, also signed the joint statement although they were not present during the press briefing.

The joint statement emphasized that a peaceful solution is the only way forward to end violence in the easternmost region. “Only through a peaceful solution can we prevent loss of life and enable the realization of prosperity and justice in Papua.”

They said dialogue should also address human rights violations and efforts to ensure fair and peaceful elections next year. (alf)

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