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'Subversive' missionaries claim angers Christians in Papua

Muslim politician accused of making baseless accusations about the restive Indonesian region

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'Subversive' missionaries claim angers Christians in Papua

In this Sept. 30 photo, an Indonesian policeman secures an area where an armed group burned houses in Papua province’s Puncak district during weeks of unrest in the region. An Indonesian Muslim MP has stirred Christian anger by accusing missionaries of being a security threat in Papua. (Photo: Sevianto Pakiding/AFP)  

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A Muslim lawmaker has accused missionaries of having hidden agendas and threatening security in the restive Indonesian region of Papua.

The comments have attracted a storm of protests from among Christians.

Speaking to Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto during a parliamentary meeting on Nov. 11, Jazuli Juwaini of the Prosperous Justice Party said missionaries in Papua were carrying out “other missions” in the region and called on the minister to monitor their activities. 

He did not give specific details as to what these missions might be but said they posed a security threat.

"The thing that we are worried about is people who act as missionaries but keep other [hidden] agendas. We don’t accuse them, but [they] must be questioned,” Juwaini said.

He also asked Subianto to increase troops in the region to maintain security following recent unrest which killed dozens of people.

Father Izaak Bame, chairman of Manokwari-Sorong Diocese’s Commission for the Laity, said Juwaini’s accusation was “baseless and would only make Papuans more embittered with Indonesia.”

He said he appreciated that Juwaini was showing concern about the situation in Papua.

The region has been gripped by a low-level insurgency waged since the 1960s by groups seeking Papuan independence from Indonesia.  

"However, he should not throw accusations at missionaries," he said, calling on the lawmaker to prove his claims.

The priest pointed out that since a government decree was issued in 1978, no new foreign missionaries have been allowed in Papua. Most of those that were there already have either died or returned to their home countries, he said.

Socrates Sofyan Yoman, president of the Papuan Baptist Churches, called the statement inflammatory.

"Why would he accuse missionaries, which means Christianity? What does that mean?” he told ucanews. “Why doesn't he talk to radical groups that have come to Papua?” 

He suspected the remarks were made to divert attention from alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

“[Strangely] the accusation against the missionaries was also used as an excuse to bring in more troops," he said.

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