11 May 2020

West Papuan churches seek talks with police

4:01 pm on 11 May 2020

A West Papuan church leader says he has support of local christian churches over his right to speak about violence in the region.

Socratez Yoman

Socratez Yoman Photo: RNZ

Reverend Socratez Yoman of the Baptist church was invited by Indonesian police to 'clarify' an article he wrote about an attack in which a New Zealander was killed in Papua in March.

While he wasn't able to attend, Reverend Yoman says fellow church leaders object to him being summoned over his article.

He said this was related to him by Dr Benny Giay of the Papuan Council of Churches, made up of the four main Christian denominations in Papua: GKI, Kingmi, GIDI and Baptist.

"Then he told me that no, this is about the community, the people in West Papua. You talk or write an article about our concern, and police should have a meeting with us, four church leaders."

Reverend Yoman said that West Papuan churches were sick and tired of violence in their homeland, and therefore sought some honest discussion with police and military.

The Baptist leader's article questioning the role of Indonesian security forces in recent killings in Mimika had met with disapproval by police.

"They should come and meet with us. This is our land. They should come see us and talk clearly about what happened," Reverend Yoman said.

"We will talk with them about our perspective, the church perspective. And they can tell us about their perspective of what's happening in West Papua."

Meanwhile, the church leader said that despite the current public restrictions and lockdown measures in place in Papua in response to the pandemic, there were benefits for West Papuans.

He said it meant Papuans were encouraged to return to their land for growing and nurturing their own sources of food and livelihood as is the traditional way.