Church official calls for disclosure on Indonesian massacres

Authorities tried to curtail program examining communist purge
The Church in Indonesia should help expose the atrocities of the country's 1965-66 anti-communist purge in which an estimated 500,000 people were killed, said a leading academic at the Church-run Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta.

Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno noted that Catholics were among the perpetrators and victims of the purge, which was led by anti-communist elements within the army and supported by wider sections of Indonesian society.

Father Magnis-Suseno was scheduled to discuss the 1965-66 massacres during the Sept. 19 public program at the Church-run Ledalero School of Philosophy. However, government authorities asked the school to restrict program participants to school personnel only, a request the school rejected.

Government officials feared the program could "spark a polemic, considering that some perpetrators and victims are still alive," said Father Ephyvanus Markus Nale Rimo, secretary to Bishop Gerulfus Kherubim Pareira of Maumere.

But Father Magnis-Suseno said the Church had a responsibility to disclose what it knows about the five-month purge, and not cover up information on the massacres.

"Don't keep covering it up. It is better if we admit it," he told ucanews.com.

"There is nothing to worry about if we discuss this issue. Fifty years is long enough for us to have courage to address [the massacres]," he said.

Divine Word Father Otto Gusti Madung, the program's organizer, said he also rejected a request from a military official to provide to him beforehand a list of speakers and attendees.

He said the goal of the program was to help Indonesia expose the truth of its history. "We cannot a manipulate history all the time," he said.

The Ledalero school is located in Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara province, the only Indonesian province where Catholicism is the majority religion. 

Father Madung said the program "doesn't have an agenda but reminds us that such incidents must never reoccur."

An estimated half million people were killed between 1965 and 1966. The massacres occurred in response to a coup that took place on Sept. 30, 1965, in which six army generals were killed. Indonesian authorities blamed the coup on communists, leading to the slaughter of those viewed as opponents.

The incident was a shame not only unto Indonesia but also the Catholic Church, Father Magnis-Suseno said.

"It is important to maintain that if we admit that there were innocent people becoming victims, it doesn't mean that we re-enliven communism," he added.

Maumere district head Yoseph Ansar Rera was unavailable for comment.

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