Theologians & Franciscan Friars about recent post-Congress Indonesian violence affecting their communities

unofficial English translation of the media statement published yesterday (26/10) by the Rector of “Fajar Timur” Catholic School of Philosophy and Theology and the Provincial of the Franciscan Friars in West Papua, Indonesia, in regards to the recent violence affecting their communities.  via ETAN


1.       Wednesday, 19 October 2011, around 9 am, the police, Brimob and the Indonesian army were on guard equipped with armoured vehicle, trucks, along Sosiri Street, Yakonde Street even at the back of “Fajar Timur” School of Philosophy and Theology (STFT). Within those streets the Catholic mission compound is located, including St Paul’s Secondary School and its teachers’ residence, “Nur Jaya” girls’ dormitory, JMJ nuns’ house, staff residence, “Sang Surya” Franciscan friary, “Tunas Harapan” Catholic dormitory, Zakheus football field (where the gathering spot of the congress), Seminary of John Vianney, “Tauboria” dormitory, Inter-diocesan seminary, the campus of Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology, residence of priest staff, a chapel, a dinning hall and other facilities. The deployment of troops without any prior notice to the school made us worried and suspected that the situation would have turned into chaos and we would have been trapped in such circumstances. Therefore, around 10 am, we asked our staff to go home.

2.       Around 11 am, a unit of Indonesian army with heavy guns entered the campus and dormitories (the inter-diocesan seminary) from the hill at the back of the campus. The troops entered our property without asking any permission. They took rest in a multi-purposed hut. Some students gave reactions to them and asked them not to enter the seminary and campus area. So they then left and went back to the hill.

3.       Around 3.30 pm some members of the security services entered the dormitories searching for the participants of the Papuan congress who were running for safety. The security services entered the dormitories of the brothers from the Diocese of Agats. They broke the doors of the study room and bed rooms at the front side, entered and ransacked the computer room while saying, “Take that computer for evidence.” While window glasses were destroyed, another voice said, “Don’t do it. This is the mission complex.” The brothers from the Diocese of Agats were terrified and lying  face down hiding at the front room. A few congress participants who took refuge in the bathrooms were arrested. A harsh voice said, “Run?…get shot!” When the security services wanted to ransack the room at the back where students were hiding, an instruction came out saying, “Enough! Enough! Stop! Back off!” then silence. After waiting for a while, those who were hiding, got out and ran away to the residence of priest staff. When they got there, they realised that one of them was shocked and could not move from his hiding place.

4.       Meanwhile, inside the staff’s study room, Father John Jehuru OSA, Associate Dean and the Rector of Interdiocesan Seminary was stunned when a bullet penetrated his window. He was monitoring the chaos happening in Zakheus football field around 3.30 pm. The bullet razed his glass louvers and curtain, hit the wall, before dropped into a study desk. The bullet and Father John were only separated for about 50-75 cms. The crumbs of the bullet were found.

5.       The security services also entered other dormitories. In the dormitories of the brothers of the Diocese of Manokwari-Sorong, while searching for participants of the congress, they said, “Is it a mission house? Where are those idiot priests? Why priests hide criminals?”

In the dormitory of the brothers of the Archdiocese of Merauke, the security services arrested Agus Alua, a student, who was standing outside when the security services came in. We found a bullet pierced a window but we do not know from which direction the bullet came from. The security services came from the back of the campus with shooting. However, we do not know whether they were the same troops that came ealier at 11 am or not.

6.       Meanwhile in the staff residence, the troops were chasing the participants and threw tear gas. One of the troops entered and found the resident, a woman, lying face down and hiding under the bed. He asked, “Who are you?” and the woman answered, “I’m the resident here!”. “Get out, don’t be afraid” said the security. She came out and wiped her soured eyes saying, “I’m not afraid of you but of your bullets and tear gas”. Then he walked away.

7.       In “Sang Surya” Franciscan friary, many participants took refuge. Mr Forkorus Yaboisembut (the Chair of the Papuan Customary Council) and Dominikus Sorabut, now suspects detained in the police custody, were taking rest after the congress was closed. Father Gonsa Saur OFM, the head of the friary, was taken by surprised when he heard a shooting. He put his Franciscan habit on and came out standing at the stairs that connect the first and the second floor of the friary. Three members of the security forces and some others with plain clothes forced to enter the second level of the house but Father Gonsa denied them. He saw the security services with plain clothes sneaked into the dining room and the front room. They were carrying big guns and pistols. Due to the heavy pressure from the security forces, finally Father Gonsa had to ask those who were hiding to come out. While some of them came out, some others stayed hidding for safety. Father Gonsa asked the security, “You can take them, but don’t beat them.” In front of him, they were not beaten up but once they were out at the road, some of the security services beat them.

Six members of the security forces in plain clothes dragged Mr Yaboisembut and yelled at him. A woman was dragged too out of the friary. One of the security forces tried to penetrate the second level but Father Gonsa asked him to come down. About ten people surrendered but we do not know their identities. They were told to walk by squatting. There were three women among them. Outside the building, many security forces with or without uniform were hanging around with heavy weapons.

8.       In John Maria Vianey’s Seminary of the Diocese of Jayapura, many participants were hiding for safety. The security services searched for the participants and found Father Yan You, the head of the seminary. Three members of the security forces pointed his gun at Father Yan’s head one by one. They said, “You hide them.” He answered, “Kill me, shot me, come on.” Then they smashed the door, entered the room and took those who were hiding. Meanwhile, the brothers convened the participants at the hall. The brothers gave up their bedrooms for the participants for hiding. The brothers put their priest uniform on and protect the participants of the congress but when the security forces entered, some of the participants surrendered and they were taken away. The brothers told the security not to be cruel with the participants. One of the brothers, who tried to help those who were shot, got beaten with a rifle butt on his hand until it was  fractured and with a rubbler baton on his nose until it was bleeding. He had been arrested and detained at the Papua police custody overnight before released on the following day. He is being treated at the intensive care unit at the local hospital.

9.       When the security forces persecuted the crowd and members of the security guards of the Papuan Customary Council (Penjaga Tanah Papua), these people ran through the back of the library and tried to enter the staff room. But they could not make it because it was locked. So they broke two pieces of glass louvers. They ran to the hill but then were stopped with shootings coming from the top of the hill. So they went back to the bushes where they had come from.

Because of this incidence, the “Yerusalem Baru” inter-diocesan seminary and “Fajar Timur” School of Philosophy and Theology were physically and non-physically damaged:
1.       7 doors were ruined, 2 computer units missing, 2 trophies crushed, 2 chairs were broken, 2 sickles and 1 knife were missing, pots of flowers scattered. Window glasses of the dormitory of the Diocese of Merauke was razed with bullet, 2 pieces of glasses louvers of the staff room were smashed, 1 window glass of the staff room was pierced by bullet, window glasses of the seminary office demolished.

2.       One student is being treated in hospital because his face was swollen so there was no difference between his nose and his cheeks.

3.       The brothers remain terrified and worried. They are traumatized because the security services have acted inhumanely.

In regards to this incidence:
1.       We do not ask for compensation for the damaged or missing facilities. The violent acts of the security forces have destroyed the facilities and also infused fear and anxiety among the civitas academica of “Fajar Timur” School of Philosophy and Theology. The building and window glasses can be replaced but it takes a long time to heal fear and anxiety.

2.       We do not ask for compensation for the medical treatment for the brother who is in hospital.

3.       We firmly reject any repressive means to deal with issues because such violent act only undermines the human dignity of victims and perpetrators.

4.       We are deeply concerned that our campus, which is entitled to academic freedom, was penetrated by heavily armed security forces without any permission or prior notice.

5.       We regret that the monopoly of truth by the security forces who assumed the brothers had done something wrong by providing assylums for those who were persecuted by the security forces. We affirm that such an assylum was provided on the basis of the universal humanitarian principle, namely when a person is exposed to a life-threatening situation, s/he has to be given protection and defence. Therefore, the protection provided for the participants of the congress who tried to take refuge from the persecution and threats from the security forces was solely based on the humanitarian principle rather than any political interests.

6.       We appeal to the Indonesian Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM) to investigate the violent incidence post congress to look at how serious human rights abuses have occurred.

7.       Based on the government’s commitment, as expressed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his address to the nation on 16 August 2011, namely “dealing Papua with heart,” we support a dialogue to be done between Jakarta and Papua. This dialogue is highly important not only to stop violence but also to prevent any recurrence of violent acts in Papua. We ask all parties of good will to push the idea of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua.

8.       We ask for supports and solidarity from the members of the Catholic Church around the world to pray and support the implementation of dialogue between Jakarta and Papua for peace of Papua. Because only through dialogue, issues that underpin conflicts in Papua can be identified and proper solutions can also be found without resorting to violence and bloodshed.

Jayapura, 26 October 2011

Rector of “Fajar Timur”  STFT The Provincial of the Franciscans Order in Papua

Father Dr. Neles Tebay, Pr Father Gabriel Ngga OFM, Lic Theol.

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