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Protestant Papuans honored for promoting peace

Pastor and layman praised for sheltering ethnic groups fleeing from bloody riots

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Protestant Papuans honored for promoting peace

Rev. Yason Yikwa (center) and Titus Kogoya (right) speak with Social Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita (left) at the Pioneer of Peace awards ceremony on Oct. 16 in Yogyakarta. (Photo courtesy of Titus Kogoya)

A Protestant pastor and a Protestant layman from Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua have received Pioneer of Peace awards from the Social Ministry for protecting non-native Papuans who sought shelter during last month’s bloody riots.

The riots erupted on Sept. 23 when high school students staged a protest against a teacher in Wamena, capital of Jayawijaya district, who had allegedly called Papuan students “monkeys” several days earlier.

Clashes with police led to a mob going on the rampage. Many public buildings and homes were burned.

More than 5,000 people sought shelter at police and military facilities, churches and convents during the violence, which killed 33 people and injured hundreds — mostly non-native Papuans — while about 10,000 others fled to other cities.

Rev. Yason Yikwa, 52, coordinator of the Ministry Desk at the Wamena chapter of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua, helped evacuate more than 500 migrants from the Batak and Toraja ethnic groups to the complex of Panorama Baptist Church in Dokoku village.

Meanwhile, Titus Kogoya, a 45-year-old civil servant from Mawampi village, blockaded roads with help from youths to prevent rioters from entering the village. He even evacuated about 80 non-native Papuans from the Batak, Toraja, Madurese and Javanese ethnic groups to his own house.

“Such a heroic rescue carried out by Yason and Titus deserves the highest appreciation. They helped villagers without regard to their ethnic and religious backgrounds. They risked their lives for the villagers’ safety,” Social Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita said in his speech during the award ceremony in Yogyakarta on Oct. 16.

Speaking to ucanews over the phone, Rev. Yason said as a religious leader he has the responsibility to deliver a message of peace to all people without regard to their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

“To me, the award reminds me of my significant role. As God’s servant, I am called to bring peace to this world. I must show love to other people. This is what I uphold firmly,” he said, mentioning verses taken from the Gospel of John.

Referring to the riots, he said those who took shelter in his 18.800-square-meter church complex were mostly Christians but some were Muslims.

“Children, women, men and the elderly took shelter in the church, office, female dormitory, male dormitory and orphanage buildings,” he said. “They all were safe, but they lost their properties such as homes and shophouses in the riots.”

Non-native Papuans stayed in the church complex until they were evacuated by police and military personnel to a safe place in the evening of that day.

Similarly, Titus said he helped non-native Papuans spontaneously. “They called for help, so I spontaneously protected them,” he told ucanews.

Thanking the minister for the appreciation, he said: “What I did was just to protect others.”

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