Papua Christians seek religious freedom

Papua Christians seek religious freedom, 28 September 2010

Pastors from the predominantly Protestant Papua province in eastern Indonesia came to Jakarta to show solidarity with attacked pastors and to urge the government to uphold religious freedom.

Papuan pastor Akwila Marin (extreme left) discusses the need to uphold religious freedom.

They were welcomed by officials of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and visited Reverend Luspida Simanjuntak and Hasean Lumbantoruan Sihombing of Batak Society Christian Church.

Reverend Simanjuntak and Sihombing were attacked by assailants on Sept. 12 while on their way to Sunday service. Sihombing was stabbed in the stomach while Reverend Simanjuntak suffered a concussion after being hit on the head with a wooden plank.

“We came here because we are concerned about the tragedy. Even though Protestants are the majority community in our region, we uphold religious freedom,” Reverend M.L. Wanma of the Indonesian Protestant Church in Papua said in a Sept. 24 press conference following the meeting.

“If violence against religious freedom continues and the government fails to protect people, we would keep ourselves apart from Indonesia,” the chairman of Protestants’ Solidarity Forum in Manokwari warned.

According to Reverend Akwila Marin of the Indonesian Protestant Church in Manokwari, Papuans regarded the recent incident as a national issue. “In Papua, all religious followers are free to pray and build worship places,” he said.

He expressed his agreement with the 2006 joint ministerial decree on the building of worship places but pointed out that people must not act violently. “Religious freedom should be upheld, or we would struggle for independence,” Reverend Marin added.

Meanwhile, PGI’s general chairman Reverend Andreas A. Yewangoe pointed out that “we do not discriminate against majority and minority communities.”