The Papuan Council of Churches has called on the Indonesian government to stop sending troops to the region, saying that it would not solve the “systemic violence” in Indonesia’s easternmost province.
The council — comprising representatives from, among other associations, the Indonesian Christian Church in Papua, the Papua Kemah Gospel Church and the Evangelical Church in Indonesia — wrote to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to voice its concern.
“The president must come himself and have a dialogue with us,” said Pastor Andrikus Mofu, general synod chairman of the Indonesian Christian Church in Papua.
The Indonesian government has earlier announced that it has formed a team to look into the situation.
The church groups, however, said the government had continued to send soldiers to Papua since anti-racism protests in the province in August last year.
They said it had led to fatal shootings, including the killing last month of Pastor Pastor Yeremia Zamambani.
The council accused the military of killing Zamambani, a prominent local figure who had translated the Bible from Bahasa Indonesia to the language of the local indigenous Moni.
The council made the appeal a day before a team of Indonesian military tasked to probe the alleged unlawful killings in Intan Jaya regency.
On Oct.10, the West Papua National Liberation Army claimed responsibility behind an attack on the government’s fact-finding team in Mamba village, Sugapa district.
A rebel spokesperson said they shot at the government troops because they “oppose a Jakarta-sanctioned investigation team that will only make us the scapegoat.”
“For us, the [government military] killed Pastor Yeremia… That is why we shot,” said the rebel spokesman.
Two members of the government’s investigative team, including a researcher from an Indonesian university, were wounded in the incident.
Sugeng Purnomo, a senior official at Indonesia’s security coordinating ministry, said the team is “currently evaluating all ongoing activities, and especially considering safety and security factors.”
He said the state-sanctioned team is maintaining “the mission of obtaining clear information about the case.
The Council of Churches, meanwhile, accused the Indonesian government of turning the region into a military operations area to take control of its natural resources.
The council said it documented how the state had tried to destroy Papuan culture since the 1960s. It also claimed that an apartheid ideology was applied to Papuans with the people subjugated.
The council urged Widodo and the UN Human Rights Council to resolve the conflict in Papua peacefully through dialogue.