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Indonesia Catholics hold mass rallies in Flores mining fight

Hundreds of priests and nuns join indigenous residents in call for permit annulments

Indonesia Catholics hold mass rallies in Flores mining fight

Father Paulus Rahmat, SVD (wearing hat) and Sister Theresia Din (right), SSpS join the anti-mining rally in front of the office of Komnas HAM in Jakarta on Mondy (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

Hundreds of priests and nuns staged simultaneous rallies today in Jakarta and several towns in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, demanding that the government annul controversial mining permits within 30 days.

“We ask the government to revoke all mining permits [in Flores]. These mining permits don’t benefit the people living around the mining sites. Instead, they create conflicts that make the local people’s lives uncomfortable,” Father Paulus Rahmat, of social justice NGO VIVAT International-Indonesia, said during the rally.

Prior to the demonstration, VIVAT International-Indonesia and several NGOs called on Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to investigate the alleged victimization of Father Simon Suban Tukan, coordinator of the Divine Word’s Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation (JPIC).

The priest faced physical violence last month when he led dozens of indigenous people – mostly farmers – in a protest in East Manggarai district. They were attempting to halt mining firm PT Aditya Bumi Pertambangan from placing heavy equipment on their communal land.

Maneger Nasution, Komnas HAM commissioner, said the agency would review the complaint.

Indigenous locals have been battling local authorities since 2009, when a mining permit was issued without consultation.

While the church has come under fire for its involvement, Bishop Hubertus Leteng of Ruteng last month issued a letter defending the role, saying “the fight against mining activities isn’t only an ecological and social struggle but also a fight [which is done] based on the Catholic call.” 

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