UCA News

Catholic catechist shot dead in Papua

Apostolic administrator denies military claims that Rufinus Tigau was a separatist
Catholic catechist shot dead in Papua

Rufinus Tigau was accused of being part of a separatist group. (Photo courtesy of Father Marthen Kuayo)

Published: October 28, 2020 08:00 AM GMT
Updated: October 28, 2020 08:03 AM GMT

A Catholic official in Papua province has condemned the killing of Rufinus Tigau, a catechist whom Indonesian security forces accused of being a separatist.

"We are very concerned with this incident which targeted church servants," Father Marthen Kuayo, apostolic administrator of Timika Diocese, told UCA News on Oct. 28.

Tigau, 28, was reportedly killed on Oct. 26 after being shot near his home in Jalae village of Intan Jaya district by soldiers. A 6-year-old boy, Herman Kobagau, was also reported injured.

The army and police insisted that Tigau was a member of the Armed Separatist Criminal Group.

Col. Czi IGN Suriastawa, a military spokesman, said the shooting happened during a further investigation after separatists on Oct. 9 disrupted the government’s joint fact-finding team investigating the killing of Protestant pastor Yeremia Zanambani.

Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musofa Kamal also claimed that Tigau was a separatist and “calling him a catechist was used by armed groups to lead religious-biased opinion.”

He said Tigau was shot during a gun battle between security forces and separatists.

However, Father Kuayo disputed those claims and said Tigau was a catechist who served at Jalae Station of St. Michael Bilogai Parish.

He was appointed as a catechist in 2015 by parish priest Father Yustinus Rahangier to replace the late Frans Wandagau, he said.

Besides helping with the catechesis program in the parish, Tigau also accompanied the priest at the altar during Sunday Mass, Father Kuayo said.

"Because the pastor reads the Bible and sermons in the Indonesian language that are not understood by all the people, he translates them into Moni, a local language,” he said.

As there were different claims over Tigau’s death, an independent team was needed to confirm whose claims were correct, he added.

"We will send a letter to various parties, including the National Commission on Human Rights, to investigate this case," Father Kuayo said, adding that a team from the diocese and parish were also collecting data in the field.

The priest also demanded that the government withdraw inorganic troops from Papua.

"We also ask Indonesian soldiers and pro-independence troops to stay away from the community’s residents. Don't enter the villages because it victimizes innocent people,” he said.

Father Kuayo also sought the support of other church leaders, including the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, to pay serious attention to violence in Papua.

“This is not the first case that has targeted Catholic Church servants. On Oct. 7, Agustinus Duwitau, another catechist at the Emondi Station, was also shot and is still undergoing treatment," he said.

"If we just keep quiet with these incidents, I'm afraid it will get worse."

Meanwhile, Natalius Pigai, a Papuan and former commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights, said solidarity from many parties is needed.

"Crimes against humanity in Papua are already serious. We hope that there will be greater attention for the future of the Papuan people," he said.

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