Rebels burning church in West Papua
The peaceful approaches and efforts of some entities (individuals and groups) in fighting for the prosperity of the West Papua region must continue to be appreciated, either they are nationalist or pro-independence.
But unfortunately, these peaceful efforts are not infrequently rebuffed by several parties with their heinous acts. Recently, last March, a church in Opitawak, Tembagapura District, Mimika Regency, Papua Province, was burned by members of Papua’s Armed Criminal Group (KKB).
The burning of this place of worship was carried out when the rebels were fleeing from the security measures of the local Papua’s security forces. Various media confirmed this evil attempt in Indonesia, including Kompas, Tribunnews, Detikcom, and Sindonews.
Gatra recently reported that initially, one of the leaders of the Papuan pro-independence group, Lekagak Telenggen denied that his men had set fire to the church.
Mr. Telenggen refuted the accusation that the perpetrators were instead Indonesian security forces (TNI — Polri). However, as confirmed by various media, there is evidence of aerial photographs showing the culprits were indeed members of this armed pro-independence group.
On Thursday (19/3), Papua’s local armed forces authority concluded that this burning was done by the Armed Criminal Group (KKB) led by Selcius Waker, who was a subordinate of Mr. Telenggen. The church burning occurred on March 12, 2020.
Regarding the denial from the leader of the group, it was reported that the action taken by an uncoordinated decision. This shows that there is no cohesiveness among the rebel members in Tembagapura because they regularly move in small groups with no exact authority.
Besides, this also shows that the groups that committed the violence did not have a connection with several prominent peaceful Papuan freedom movement figures who mostly live abroad.
A Facebook page that often posts on developments info in Papua and West Papua, called Little Heaven that Fell on the Earth (Surga Kecil Jatuh ke Bumi) states that the burning of buildings both residential houses and houses of worship is a common act done by this violent group.
“These methods (burning houses of worship) have often been carried out by the armed rebel group when cornered by the security forces. They have often set fire to both churches and school buildings, even community homes, intending to divert the security measures.”
This kind of burning was also carried out by the rebel group in 2017. They held thousands of citizens hostage, burned hospitals, schools, and people’s homes.
Of course, it is unfortunate that the struggle for prosperity in the West Papua region must be carried out with violence and the burning of houses of worship. The peaceful struggle can actually be undertaken because, currently, all regional leaders in Papua are, in fact, Papuan and West Papuan natives. By law, no non-natives can become leaders in the region.