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Building a culture of peace in Papua through dialog

by Elga J. Sarapung

Elga J. Sarapung de l’organisation indonésienne Interfidei est aussi membre du Réseau international Développement et Civilisations. Elle a participé à une conférence sur la paix menée par le réseau Papua Peace Network (PPN) à Abepua en Papouasie du 5 au 7 juillet 2011. Les participants (800 personnes) ont identifié des indicateurs clés de la paix dans cinq domaines: politique ; économie et environnement ; socio-culture ; sécurité et loi ; droits de l’homme. Ils ont également formulé le contenu du dialogue entre le gouvernement de l’Indonésie et les indigènes de Papouasie.

Elga J. Sarapung of the Indonesian organization "Interfidei" is a member of “Development and Civilisations” International Network. She participated in a peace conference conducted by the Papua Peace Network (PPN) in Abepura, Papua, from 5th to 7th of July 2011. The participants (800 peoples) identified keys indicators of peace in five aspects, namely : politics; economics and environment; socio-culture; law and security; and human rights. They also formulated and agreed upon the substance and mechanism of the dialogue between the government of Indonesia and the indigenous people of Papua.

The Land of Papua(1) is the most eastern region of Indonesia where its indigneous communities have been struggling on many humanitarian and national issues for more or less 48 years. Starting from issues of education (many are still undereducated), health (HIV/AIDS-Papua is the fourth area with the highest number of people with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia), welfare (there are still many who live in poverty – while in fact they possess such wealthy natural resources: minerals, oils, gas, gold, fish, forest, etc.), to human rights issues (the people have been victims of gross human right violations), “human security” (they still feel insecure to live in their own Land that is heavily safeguarded by Indonesian military); violence (in many places all over Papua, many members of the community have been treated violently by the security apparatus), political-social-cultural stigmatization towards Papuans (every time Papuans demand for justice, they are always stigmatized as separatists, anti – United Republic of Indonesia). In addition, the settlers stereotype native Papuans as lazy people, drunkards and black-skinned.

Natural resources in the Land of Papua have been and are currently plundered by outsiders or non-Papuans, may they be fellow Indonesians or foreigners, through numerous domestic and multinational companies supported by the local and national governments, security apparatus, and national business people. At present, it is difficult for (native) Papuans to enjoy their natural wealth in a maximum and equal way, with the exception of the Papuan elites.

Such is the situation, in addition to the fact that for a long time now there have been no indications of a good, positive, peaceful and non-violent solution to confront the issues. To date, the approach taken by the State has always emphasized on the military or “security” approach, instead of “human security”, which then results in violent acts of the security apparatus against the Papuans. The resistance of the Papuans for justice is always responded to by the military in a more and less similar way. This resistance was then branded by the apparatus and the State as a separatist movement against the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. This brand is then attributed to all Papuans, due to their actions or ways to demand justice from the State of Indonesia(2).

The above situation has been taken up by religious leaders in Papua. The Church, may it be Catholic and Protestant, plays a significant role in the efforts of defending the rights of the Papuans in demanding justice. The Church continues to manifest its prophetic role in many forms of concrete actions, to speak out of justice and truth, up to the point where it (as an institution) or its leaders, priests, pastors, and elders of the congregations) are sometimes accused of being supporters of the separatist movement.

Defending the rights of the indigenous Papuans has now become the collective struggle and action of all religions in the Land of Papua. All religions, namely Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Protestantism, and Catholicism, are involved and committed to working together for the sake of peace in Papua(3).

The inviolvement of the religious leaders started with a workshop organized by the office for Justice and Peace / Sekretariat Keadilan dan Perdamaian (SKP) Jayapura on 25-30 November 2002. The workshop brought together religious leaders, NGOs, academicians, and the government. The theme of the workshop was “Building a Culture of Peace for Papua Land of Peace”(4).

Since then, the motto of “Papua Land of Peace” has been promoted, and many activities have been conducted. Leaders of religions continue supporting the ‘Papua Land of Peace’ campaign. This support was especially facilitated by an interfaith forum, called Consultation Forum of Religious Leaders (FKPPA) in Papua, which was established in 2006. This Forum is dynamic with various activities which all aimed to realize the Papua Land of Peace. An example is collaboration with Interfidei, Yogyakarta, in implementation of an alternative education on “pluralism-multiculturalism” and peace-building, especially for the teachers of Religions, youths, and religious leaders.

Then, a Catholic priest, Fr. Neles Tebay, who is also a member of FKPPA, designed a concept with its guidelines of practical steps on the way to end conflicts in Papua. He proposed DIALOGUE; i.e. JAKARTA-PAPUA DIALOGUE(5) as the dignified way to settle the problems in Papua. Fr. Neles firmly believes that only by initiating and conducting DIALOGUE can Peace on the Land of Papua be achieved without any violence. It means that there must be a series of DIALOGUE among fellow Papuans of different tribes, religions, and factions; DIALOGUE between native Papuans and the migrants, or which is more widely known as the strategic group; DIALOGUE between local Government and Papuan people; and DIALOGUE between Jakarta (Central Government) and the native Papuans who live in Papua and abroad. It should also mean a DIALOGUE with those who are considered or accused of being separatists. The series of dialogues should be followed up by WORK: working together in building Papua, Land of Peace.

The most important thing is that a dialogue should be perceived as a collective mission to end conflicts on the land of Papua, so Papua becomes a land of peace. It should be implemented anywhere with any organizational or institutional umbrella, or maybe by individuals. Dialogue should always be promoted, and interpreted in its widest meaning: continue the dialogue for any interests; start something by having a dialogue for any interests: an equal, dignified dialogue accommodating the need of all. (Fr. Neles Tebay)

On 5-7 July 2001, Jaringan Damai Papua / Papua Peace Network co-founded by Fr. Neles Tebay along with his 31 other colleagues, held a Peace Conference on “Papua, Land of Peace” at the Auditorium of Cenderawasih University (Uncen), Abepura.

This Conference was attended by more or less 800 participants. They are the natives of Papua, religious leaders, customary figures (Papuan Customary Board) and native community figures of Papua, in addition to the central and local government of Papua and a number of observers (the writer attended the Conference as an observer).

In this Conference, the issue of DIALOGUE was thought of and discussed profoundly and collectively. They believe that DIALOGUE is the best, dignified, and peaceful way to end the issues in the Land of Papua. “Because if we keep on using violence, it will be avenged with another act of violence and will deliver a new violence". (Rev. Socratez S. Yoman)

One of the outputs of quality from the Conference is the raising of a collective awareness among the Papuans of different tribes, languages, religions, genders, and factions, on the significance of the building of a collective “spirit” along with a collective vision and mission, which is to realize Papua, Land of Peace. In order to achieve this, they have to succeed DIALOGUE, a way of peace and dignity for the life of Papuans, both for now and in the future.

Elga J. Sarapung(6)


[1] - The Land of Papua meant here are both provinces: Papua Barat (West Papua) and Papua

[2] - Read the book of Muridan S. Widjojo and team, “Papua Road Map”, negotiating the Past, improving the Present and Securing the Future” , LIPI, Jakarta 2009.

[3] - Neles Tebay, Upaya Lintas Agama demi Perdamaian di Papua Barat (Interfaith Endeavours for Peace in West Papua), Human Rights series, Missio, 24, Aachen, Germany, 2006.

[4] - Tim SKP Jayapura, Membangun Budaya Damai dan Rekonsiliasi. Dasar Menangani Konflik di Papua (Building a Culture of Peace and Reconciliation. The Basis for Conflict Management in Papua), SKP Keuskupan Jayapura, 2009.

[5] - Neles Tebay, Dialog Jakarta-Papua, Sebuah Perspektif Papua (Jakarta-Papua Dialog, a Papuan Perspective), SKP Jayapura, 2009.

[6] - Elga Sarapung, Director of Institute of Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia (Interfidei), Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Executive Committee Member of ACRP.

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