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Papuan Catholic groups protest harassment of priest

Police may question Father John Djonga a second time on treason charges

Papuan Catholic groups protest harassment of priest
Protesters in Indonesia’s West Papua province call on police to stop harassing an activist priest recently questioned for treason. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Baru)

WANI/UcaNews, Papua – Dozens of young Catholics in West Papua protested in the provincial
capital Manokwari March 2, demanding that police stop harassing an
activist priest recently questioned for treason.

Protesters from the Catholic Youth and the Union of Catholic
University Students of the Republic of Indonesia organizations marched
several kilometers from the State University of Papua to the offices of
the West Papua Police where they held the protest.

“Through the West Papua Police, we urge the Papua Police to stop
criminalizing Father John Djonga,” Thomas Jefferson Baru, head of the
Catholic Youth’s West Papua chapter, told ucanews.com.

Father Djonga was summoned by police in Wamena in Papua province on
Feb. 19, four days after leading a prayer service in which members of a
separatist group were alleged to have participated. The priest has
maintained that his presence at the ceremony to open a community service
building was purely pastoral.

Father Djonga appeared at the police station in the district’s
capital on Feb. 26 after consulting with Franciscan Bishop Leo Laba
Ladjar of Jayapura. Accompanied by a lawyer, he answered 55 questions
from two police officers during the four-hour meeting. Police have said
they may call on Father Djonga for further questioning.

Baru said protesters are calling on police to leave Father Djonga alone.
“Summoning and questioning the priest is a form of criminalization as he was just leading a prayer service,” he said.

Reimondus Asem, secretary of the student union’s Fakfak district
chapter, said the police harassment of their priest has caused an
emotional upheaval among local Catholics.
He believes police questioned Father Djonga because they have little understanding of the priest’s role in the community.
They should have a better understanding of a priest’s service “so there will be no misunderstanding,” he said.

Papuan police spokesman Patridge Renwarin told ucanews.com that
Father Djonga is currently considered a “witness” to a violation of
Indonesia’s criminal code pertaining to treason. The spokesman said the
priest would become a “suspect” should further evidence be uncovered
that implicates him.

Earlier, Father Djonga, who has long fought for the rights of the
Papuan people, said he was told police may call him in for further
questioning. He said he remained unfazed by the police scrutiny.
“It has been my work in the region with conflicts like this. I have
no fear,” he said. “There’s no way I can just stand still while the
Papuan people face injustices and violence.”

Posted by: Benny Mawel
Copyright ©UcaNews

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