Delegation of 20 Bishops from the Pacific Region visit West Papua

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Bishops from Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have participated in the 57th Annual General Meeting (AGM) between April 4 and 15, 2016, in Vanimo. During the two weeks conference a delegation of 20 bishops also visited Jayapura, where they met with bishops from West Papua to discuss ways and means of future cooperation between the dioceses in West Papua, PNG and Solomon Islands. The bishops crossed the PNG-Indonesian border under military escort in a vehicle convoy across.

During their visit to Jayapura, the bishops also gave short notice to local human rights activists. The catholic women of West Papua presented a letter to the delegation in which they emphasised the importance of the delegation's visit to West Papua, particularly referring to the human rights situation in Indonesia's easternmost province. They furthermore declared that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua constitutes the representing organisation of the West Papuan people and enjoys their full support in receiving a full membership status within the Melanesian Spearhead Group MSG: “Few foreigners and even fewer esteemed guests like yourselves are able to get permission to come, or are willing to risk visiting our country,” the statement said. “We want you to know that we are not free. We are confined in a situation that is full of violence. Because of the Indonesian police and military we do not feel safe in our own land. We desire to determine our own future, freely and fairly. We want you to know that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua represents us. They have our full support.”

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In the letter, the catholic women of West Papua also expressed their concern regarding the ongoing uncontrolled migration from other parts of Indonesia to West Papua, as well as the government's failure to address numerous human rights violations and impunity in the region. They called on the Conference of Bishops to encourage the Pacific Island Forum to immediately send a human rights fact-finding mission to West Papua.  “Our people experience violence and death because of the brutal actions of the Indonesian military and police,” the letter 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. In fact, they (the State) are often the perpetrators or protect the perpetrators, so we feel we have nowhere to turn. Sadly the Catholic Church in West Papua is largely silent about this and does not give voice to our cry for justice.”

As a result of the visit to Jayapura, the bishops expressed their openness to write a statement at the the general meeting to voice the cry for independence of West Papuans.