Friday, March 09, 2007

Papuan Catholic says religions 'working together'

If Islam's jihad, "in its authentic sense manifests in people's endeavors to build peaceful coexistence," wrote Neles Tebay, a Catholic priest and lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Jayapura, "Muslim and non-Muslim communities everywhere in the world, then, can work together." In an article in The Jakarta Post, he reported that since 2000, the leaders of all religions -- including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism -- in Papua have been united in promoting peace. The campaign aims to build 'Papua, the land of peace' and that the religious leaders believe all peoples, regardless of their different religious traditions, are determined to establish a lasting peace and want to build Papua as a peaceful territory.

The shared concept of "Papua, the land of peace" consists of eight fundamental values: awareness of and respect for plurality, justice, unity, harmony, solidarity, togetherness, sincere brotherhood and welfare. These values examine which plans and activities should be supported and/or rejected by the people of Papua. Based on the fundamental values, the religious leaders are committed to jointly speaking out about injustice and all forms of oppression experienced by the community, particularly the indigenous Papuans. They see the necessity to boost effective cooperation and communication among interfaith leaders, with other civil society groups, and with all people of good will.

"The religious leaders have repeatedly called on all people across Papua to take part in the campaign, love one another as an expression of their faith, recognize and accept ethnic, religious and cultural diversity as a gift from God, give priority to dialog as a way of resolving problems, maintain harmonious relations with God, fellow members of the community and nature and resist provocation and avoid being provoked by conflicts taking place outside Papua," he wrote. "To create a peaceful Papua, the religious leaders have jointly called upon the local and central governments to build good and clean governance, engage in dialog with the people through the regional assembly regarding the implementation of Law No. 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua, take actions in cooperation with non-governmental organizations against the spread of HIV/AIDS through the adequate provision of health services and efforts to tackle the root causes of its proliferation."

The leaders also emphasise the necessity for the governments to engage with communities -- including customary, religious, youth communities and women's organizations -- in planning, deciding, implementing and evaluating development programs, and choose dialog as the first course of action in addressing problems in Papua. "

"For the sake of peace, they call on the governments to guarantee all people living in Papua the right to live, uphold justice by addressing gross violations of human rights in Papua without impunity, give Papuans the opportunity to take their rightful place as the primary actors in the process of development and the use of natural resources, and utilize natural resources for the welfare and prosperity of the Papuan people.

"Given the resistance movement waged by the Free Papua Movement (OPM), any peace initiative could be mistakenly interpreted as advocating an independent state in Papua. The Indonesian authorities could, therefore, be suspicious of all peace-building initiatives in Papua. Addressing this suspicion, the religious leaders have made it clear the peace campaign has nothing to do with the campaign for an independent state in Papua. These two campaigns are not identical. For the main aim of the "Papua, the land of peace" campaign is to ensure peace prevails in Papua, irrespective of whether Papua remains an Indonesian province or becomes an independent state.

The goal of the campaign, therefore, is wider than an independent state. It includes all aspects of human life from physical health, social relationships and prosperity, mutual trust and respect, justice, fair opportunities for development, socioeconomic development, cultural rights and human security. In order to highlight their peaceful campaign and reflect its significance in everyday life, the religious leaders lead the celebration of Papuan Peace Day every Feb. 5 and International Peace Day on Sept. 21."

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