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Catholics in Papua picket bishops' meeting


JAYAPURA (UCAN): All five bishops serving in the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia have come under fire from indigenous members of their flock for remaining silent over what the Papuan people call serious social injustice.
Their anger prompted them to stage a protest on June 14 outside the Maranatha Waena Convent in Jayapura where the five bishops were holding their annual meeting.
"The bishops stay silent instead of speaking up more about injustices faced by indigenous people. They let our dignity be torn up by unfair developments in areas such as health, education and even politics," the organiser of the rally, Christianus Dogopia, said.
He complained that local governments only focus on development programmes in urban areas, where the majority are non-Papuans, pointing out that the availability of health care facilities in towns and cities are a prime example.
"Those living in remote areas cannot go to towns or cities as they do not have enough money even for public transport," he said.
Soleman Itlay, a Papuan advocate for a better deal on health care, joined the protest, saying that many indigenous people in remote areas die because of a lack of health care facilities.
Responding to the rally, Bishop Aloysius Murwito, from Agats-Asmat, promised to meet the people's demands.
"We will pay more serious attention to their demands," he said, adding that he and other bishops will work together with priests and parishes to deal with the issues.
Indonesia has conducted a programme on colonisation by population in Papua, bringing people from other parts of the country to the extent that their population far exceeds that of the indigenous people.
The bulk of the migrants live in townships, where the indigenous people complain all the attention of the government is concentrated at the expense of their mostly rural settlements.
The other four bishops are, Archbishop Nicolaus Adi Seputra, from Merauke; Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, from Jayapura; Bishop, Bishop John Philip Saklil, from Timika; and Bishop Hilarion Datus Lega, from Manokwari-Sorong.


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