A Catholic youth organization called on Indonesia’s new army chief, General Andika Perkasa, to change the military’s approach to the conflict in the country’s Papua region “from militant to humane.”
Stefanus Asat Gusma, chairman of the group Catholic Youth, said the ongoing conflict in the region “is causing more unrest and is depriving Papuans of a sense of security.”
Last week, a coalition of close to 200 Catholic priests also called for peace, even urging the United Nations to intervene in the conflict-ridden territory.
In a statement, the priests said they support moves to invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “to come, see and hear the actual human rights conditions in Papua.”
Catholic Youth’s Gusma said Indonesia authorities should hold dialogues with communities to ensure dialogue and understanding.
“Every soldier who comes from outside Papua must also be equipped with a complete understanding of the anthropological aspects of the region,” said the youth leader in a report by the group International Christian Concern.
Gusma said his organization identified three fundamental issues at stake in Papua, namely, a crisis of trust in the government, the pace of infrastructure development, and differences in perception of social issues between Papua and Jakarta.
General Perkasa has reportedly promised to evaluate how the Indonesian government is responding to the Papua conflict.
“The approach I want to carry out there is the same as in other areas [of Indonesia], the same as in Java and other places, because Papua’s status is the same as in other regions,” the International Christian Concern report quoted the general.
Papua has been plagued by separatist conflict for decades and access for foreign journalists is often restricted.
In the past year there have been sporadic and deadly attacks involving security forces and indigenous Papuans, including the killing of several Papuan minors.
In 2020, the United Nations human rights body expressed concern over reports of extrajudicial killings and escalating violence in the region.
The International Christian Concern claimed that over 60,000 Papuans have been displaced since the recent eruption of conflict in the region.