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02/03/2012 Indonesia (Asia News) – Christian religious leaders in Papua are preparing the ground for “real talks” involving Indonesia’s central government and its Papuan administration with the leaders of the Papuan independence movement. Two days ago, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his ministers met Catholic and Protestant religious leaders at the presidential palace in Jakarta for the second time after a tête-à-tête on 16 December 2011.
Once known as Irian Jaya, Indonesia’s easternmost territory is rich in natural resources. Since Indonesia started to push its claims for annexation (achieved in 1969) under then President Sukarno, it has become the scene of a violent military campaign.
Under the repressive regime of General Suharto (1967-1998), the region was invaded by foreign multinational and Indonesian companies, sparking the rise of an independence movement that seeks separation from Indonesia.
According to many Papuans and local religious leaders, their country has been long exploited with natives forced to stand by watching its people abused and its land stripped of its wealth, all in the name of economic progress.
Local tribal leaders have found support in Church leaders for their struggle and rights against the system of exploitation imposed by Jakarta.

Speaking about the two recent meetings, Christian leaders said they were satisfied about the central government’s moves. Church leaders reiterated their support for dialogue, noting that their role is to prepare the ground for a “real dialogue” between government officials and Papuan leaders.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Rev Lipiyus Biniluk STh added that the Church’s role is to promote justice and peace, setting the stage for a series of talks. However, he did not voice an opinion on the Papuan independence from Indonesia.

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