Nun identifies key to understanding West Papua tension

Josephite nun Susan Connelly said there is a real connection between what had happened in East Timor and what is happening in Papua today.

Sr Connelly, one of the most prominent Australian voices on East Timor, told the ABC's Religion Report that the East Timor Government's new report on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation, is "a good place to start" to understand the situation in Papua.

"I must say it reads very, very sad reading," she said of the report. "But ... apart from my sorrow for the Timorese, the connection between that and what is happening in West Papua just stood up and shouted at me."

She said when reports coming out of Papua are put side by side with the East Timor report a pattern of human rights abuses by the Indonesian authorities emerges through the "pages and pages of evidence".

"You could put either the words 'East Timor' or 'West Papua' in where the noun goes (in these reports) and the violations of human dignity would remain the same. Torture, disappearance, detention, rape, starvation," she said.

She said the East Timor reports reveal that hundreds of human rights abusers remain free and some Indonesian military figures have even been promoted, such as Major-General Mahidin Simbolon.

"(The) Major-General ... was charged by UN Prosecutors with crimes against humanity, and he was sent to West Papua as a military commander. I mean, it's bizarre," she said.

Sr Connelly, who was recently named on the Indonesian government's list of Australian enemies it says are working for Papuan independence, said that ending human rights abuses in Indonesia is Australia's and the international community's responsibility.

"It's our responsibility, it's the countries that were responsible for selling military arms to Indonesia, knowing full well where they were being used," she said.

Sr Connelly said that she hopes the churches will not be so slow to react to the situation in Papua as it did to the human rights abuses in East Timor.

"We're real good at saying things from the Gospel, oh yes, whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me," she said. "Let's put our money where our mouth is, let's put our religion where our mouth is."

The East Timor report is available for download on the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor website (www.easttimor-reconciliation.org).

Meanwhile Herman Wainggai and his community of forty West Papuan asylum seekers will play a central role in the Good Friday celebrations at St Ignatius Church, Richmond tomorrow.

Nine members of the group have already been housed in support housing in Richmond by St Ignatius Parish, and a further group of four will take up residence in a third house after Easter.

Herman Wainggai will speak to what is expected to be a crowded Good Friday congregation about the story of their journey from West Papua and the trauma which they escaped from in order to seek asylum in Australia.

The West Papuan community will be welcomed at the commencement of the service and following the short address by Herman Wainggai later in the service they will sing a traditional song from the Highlands Region.

Parish Priest, Fr Peter Norden, says that the Richmond Catholic Parish is pleased to welcome the West Papuans into their community and to their Good Friday Service:

"The story of Good Friday is one of persecution and oppression, and the story of the West Papuans fits comfortably into the service of the day" he explained.

"Jesus was arrested, tortured under interrogation, and condemned as an outcast by the authorities of his day, and there are many parallels with the experiences and the journey to Australia of this group of West Papuans".

Susan Connolly on West Papua (ABC Religion Report 12/4/06)
West Papuan Refugee Community Welcomed At Good Friday Service in Richmond (St Ignatius Church, Richmond)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Franciscans International
Hampapua.org - A Human Rights Resource for West Papua (Catholic Diocese of Jayapura)
Mary MacKillop East Timor
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor

Franciscans say Jakarta ignoring root cause of West Papua tension (CathNews 12/4/06)

Julie Morgan and John Barr on West Papua (ABC Religion Report 12/4/06)

13 Apr 2006