At least six people were killed and thousands forced to flee during clashes between two indigenous groups in Indonesia’s Papua province sparked by allegations of witchcraft, police said Oct. 6.
Violence flared between members of the Kimyal and Yali tribes in Dekai, the capital of Yahukimo district, on Oct. 3.
At least 41 people were reportedly injured in the violence, many of them seriously.
Some were later transferred to hospitals in the provincial capital Jayapura.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said the conflict was sparked by accusations from the Kimyal tribe that their rivals were practicing witchcraft which led to the death of Abock Busup, an influential Kimyal member and former Yahukimo district chief.
Medical authorities later confirmed he had died from a heart attack.
Five Yali people were killed as was one Kimyal member, while three houses and a hotel owned by another member of the Yali tribe were burned
"The witchcraft accusation spread quickly, prompting the Kimyal tribesmen to attack the Yali group," Kamal said.
He said the Kimyal armed with bows and machetes then set out in two minibuses to hunt down Yali people in their homes and churches.
Five Yali people were killed as was one Kimyal member, while three houses and a hotel owned by another member of the Yali tribe were burned.
Kamal said police had arrested 52 people and were hunting others in connection with the violence.
Florianus Geong, a Catholic activist based in Dekai, said food and clothing are being sought for more than 4,000 refugees who took refuge in police stations and military posts.
"There are also some who fled to churches," he told UCA News on Oct. 6.
He said church people in Dekai were organizing assistance from Catholics. The situation is still tense and people are afraid to return home, he added.
Conflicts between ethnic groups often occur in Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost region, which has 255 tribes.
In 2018, a conflict between the Yali and Ngalik tribes, also in Yahukimo district, killed two people and injured six, including a policeman.
Collectivity is what causes them to mobilize in large numbers, either to create conflict or to resolve conflicts
Last year violence in Jayapura between the Nafri and Enggros tribes over a land dispute left seven people injured.
Adriana Elisabeth, coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, said such conflicts are common in Papua because there are no conflict resolution efforts involving indigenous leaders, so when there is a dispute, each group “looks for its own version of justice.”
There needs to be a well-organized conflict resolution mechanism in which there are representatives of ethnic groups and the government, she told BBC News Indonesia.
She said every group in Papua is equal, whether they are a minority or majority, and has a collective character.
"Collectivity is what causes them to mobilize in large numbers, either to create conflict or to resolve conflicts," she said.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.