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West Papua visit hailed by Catholic women

Wednesday 13 April 2016 | Published in Regional

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WEST PAPUA – A Catholic Womens group in West Papua has called for regional support for their people’s plight, after a visit to the Indonesian territory by Catholic Bishops from other parts of Melanesia.

Two dozen Bishops from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji visited West Papua last week.

Among them were the Archbishop of Port Moresby, John Ribat, and the Archbishop of Honiara, Adrian Smith.

As they travelled to Jayapura from PNG for what has been described by the Catholic Womens group as a fact-finding mission, the bishops were closely accompanied by Indonesian military.

Although restricted in who they could talk with, the bishops had a meeting with the Bishop of Jayapura and met with a group of students.

However, the impact of their visit on a group of Papuan Catholic women has been expressed with deep gratitude.

Unable to meet the visiting bishops themselves, the Catholic women delivered a statement to them, describing their visit as important because it was rare for people to visit Papua.

Thanking the bishops for their visit, the women pressed upon them that the conditions of life for the indigenous Papuan Catholics were in a poor state.

“Our people experience violence and death because of the brutal actions of the Indonesian military and police,” they said.

“Every day more and more migrants arrive. We are becoming a minority in our land and even in our own church while the Indonesian people master all aspects of life.”

The bishops have been urged to continue helping raise awareness about the “many cases of violence and injustices” in Papua which have gone unresolved.

“The state does not address these. In fact, they are often the perpetrators or protect the perpetrators, so we feel we have nowhere to turn,” read the statement.

“Sadly, the Catholic Church in West Papua is largely silent about this and does not give voice to our cry for justice.”

The Catholic Womens group said it wanted the international community to know that West Papuans want to be free to determine their own future.

The women told the bishops that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua represents them and has their full support.

Last year, the Liberation Movement was granted observer status at the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The women have asked the bishops to encourage Pacific Islands countries to speak up in support of justice and peace in West Papua, and push for a full fact-finding mission to the Indonesian territory.

A report by the Bishops delegation which visited Papua is expected to be presented by the end of the month.

- RNZI