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Indonesia

Papua bishops hold govt talks on ways to end violence

Prelates hope to ease tensions by persuading Jakarta not to use heavy-handed tactics against separatists and civilians

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Papua bishops hold govt talks on ways to end violence

Sacred Heart Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi leads a Mass in this file image. Bishop Mandagi and Franciscan Bishop Aloysius Murwito met Indonesia's security minister in Jakarta on Nov. 1 to discuss problems in the restive province. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)

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Two church leaders from Papua have met Indonesia’s security minister in Jakarta to discuss various problems plaguing the restive province, including continuing violence.
 
Franciscan Bishop Aloysius Murwito of Agats-Asmat and Sacred Heart Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, apostolic administrator of Merauke Archdiocese, met Mahfud MD on Nov. 1 for more than one hour at his residence.
  
The two bishops were accompanied by Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Harjoatmodjo of Jakarta, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference.
 
“The meeting was held in response to various problems in Papua, especially violence. We bishops are concerned about the situation,” Bishop Mandagi of Amboina, Maluku, told UCA News.
 
He said specific cases were not discussed at the meeting and the focus was on the effects the violence was having on people, including the military and police.

The military and police are often accused of using a heavy-handed approach in dealing with a low-level insurgency by separatists.

The region is also the poorest in the country, a situation that is also said to be fueling local resentment towards Jakarta.

Bishop Mandagi said they suggested to Mahfud that more dialogue was needed with locals to try and ease tensions, including dialogue between Jakarta and the local church.

The government must tread more carefully. Using a military approach exacerbates tensions in the region, he said.
 
“Papuans are good people. Everyone including military, police, and church workers who come to Papua must not look down on them. We all need to settle Papua's problems with dialogue, by respecting Papuans and without violence,” Bishop Mandagi said.

The bishop also warned against profiteers exploiting local people and against mass migration to the region, saying it will marginalize and antagonize Papuans.

Security Minister Mahfud said the meeting with the bishops was constructive and that government officials would go to Papua and hold further talks with the bishops and other religious leaders.
 
“I hope the government fulfills its promises to decrease violence in Papua. We want Papua to become a land of love, not a war zone,” Bishop Mandagi said.
 
Father John Bunai, chairman of a Papuan indigenous priests’ association, said the meeting was held at the request of Mahfud following the shooting of Rufinus Tigau, a Catholic catechist, on Oct. 26 in Papua’s Intan Jaya district.

He expressed regret that all of Papua’s bishops could not attend because the meeting was called at short notice.

He also suggested more could have been achieved if President Joko Widodo had been present.

"We wanted our bishops to meet the president, not only the minister, so that the Papuan problems could be properly addressed," he said.

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