Papuan Catholics protest against their own bishops

bennymawelpapuancatholics-resizedActivists claim prelates are staying silent over social issues when they should be speaking out

All five bishops serving in Indonesia's Papua and West Papua provinces have come under fire from indigenous Papuan Catholics for "staying silent" over alleged social injustices.


Their anger prompted them to stage a protest outside the venue where Archbishop Nicolaus Adi Seputra of Merauke, Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura, Bishop Aloysius Murwito of Agats-Asmat, Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika, and Bishop Hilarion Datus Lega of Manokwari-Sorong were holding an annual meeting to discuss local church matters on June 14th.

The meeting was held at the Maranatha Waena Convent in Jayapura, capital of Papua province.

"The bishops stay silent instead of speaking up more about injustices faced by indigenous people. They let our dignity be torn up by unfair developments in areas such as health, education and even politics," protest organizer, Christianus Dogopia said.

Local governments only focus on development programs in urban areas, where the majority are non-Papuans. He pointed to the availability of health care facilities in towns and cities as one example.

"Those living in remote areas cannot go to towns or cities as they do not have enough money even for public transport."

Soleman Itlay, a Papuan activist who deals with health issues, also joined the protest. He said many indigenous people in remote areas die because of a lack of health care facilities.

Responding to the rally, Bishop Murwito promised to meet the protesters' demand.

"We will pay more serious attention to their demands," he said, adding that he and other bishops will work together with priests and parishes to deal with the issues.


Photo: Protesters hold up a sign saying "Where are the shepherds when their sheep are hunted by wolves?" (UCA News/Benny Mawel)