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Father John Jonga: The unstoppable rights advocate

ICC Note:

Indonesian Pastor receives humanitarian award as an example of thriving under persecution

By Nethy Dharma Somba

12/12/09 Indonesia (The Jakarta Post) – The struggle for human rights is universal, unrestricted and equal, whatever the person’s tribe, religion or race.

That’s been the philosophy of Father John Jonga who won the Yap Thiam Hien award for 2009.

The award was handed over at an event in the Flores Room of Hotel Borobudur in Jakarta, on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009.

Originally from Flores, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), Jonga has been fighting for human rights in Papua, specifically in the Keerom region on the border of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

From 2000, Jonga has been working as a pastor in the region of Keerom. During that time, he has often been called to witness the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka), the Free Papua Organization, fighting human rights violations. Papuan residents living on the border encounter.

Jonga knows of many human rights violations in that area, including persecution, arbitrary arrest, intimidation and violence against women. The situation there is not safe and he says the military are responsible.

Experiencing these incidents has made Father John Jonga, born in Flores on Nov. 4 1958, work for their rights. He has even told the military to withdraw from Keerom, as it has been making residents feel uneasy.

This statement was delivered directly to the Governor of Papua, Barnabas Suebu, during his visit to Keerom in 2007.

Jonga’s has received threats for his efforts from the military, including threats he would be buried alive.

‘‘After I voiced my concerns, I was terrorized by a military member. The person told me I would be buried alive, 700-meters deep,” he said. “I was scared, but I believe that our life is in the hands of God, and I am alive and passionate to serve the small community in Keerom.”

The Fellowship of Papuan Churches in the region of Keerom reported the human rights violations in the territory of Keerom, Papua, to its regent, Celsius Watae, in 2007.

Many insults have been hurled at Pastor John Jonga in his attempt to fight for human rights, such as “Father OPM” and “provocateur”.

“I have been called many names, and there have been efforts to pit public opinion against me,’’ explained the son of Arnoldus Lete and Yuliana Malon.

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