Why Are Indonesian Christians Disappointed in President Jokowi?

By ICC’s Indonesia Correspondent

10/24/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)A pastor named Yeremia Zanambani was killed on September 19, 2020, in Hitadipa, Papua. According to the report from Pantau, “A series of shooting cases between September 17-19 killed TNI – POLRI officers (national security forces) and civilians, including Pastor Yeremia Zanambani (68) in Bomba village, Hitadipta District, Intan Jaya Regency, Papua.” In recent months, Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, has seen a rise in armed conflicts. Pastor Yeremia’s death is the result of the conflicts there.

There is something odd, however, with regards to the Indonesian government’s response to this incident. Jakarta seemed slow in responding to this killing, and President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) did not say a word. Even the mainstream media did not care enough to cover the news. Unlike the incident a few weeks earlier, where a Muslim cleric, Syech Ali Jaber, was attacked by a young man and his arm was stabbed, Indonesia was in an instant uproar— all were shocked, and many strongly criticized and condemned the crime. Within minutes, this news became a trending topic.

President Jokowi was vocal about this attack. He urged the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and Indonesian Nasional Police (Polri) to thoroughly investigate this criminal case. The Coordinating Minister for Political Legal and Security Affairs (Menkopolhukam) Mahfud MD responded quickly by visiting Syech Ali Jaber. Not long after, Syech Ali Jaber paid another visit to the Menkopulhukam Office.

The two events happened almost at the same time, but received different treatment from the Indonesian government, especially from President Jokowi. As a result, a number of appeals and criticism were sent to President Jokowi.

Chairperson of the Synod of the Alliance Church in Indonesia (GKII), where Pastor Yeremia Zanambani served, Pdt. Daniel Ronda told CNN Indonesia, “We regret that the government has not yet commented on this incident to this day. Both from Pak Jokowi, or the [government itself].” Echoing Ronda, Pdt. Dora Balubun from the Synod of the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua (GKI) told Pantau.com, “The President never gave any comments. Sad, it’s very sad.”

Christians in Indonesia really hope that Jokowi can bring changes to the oppression that the believers have been experiencing. That is why in the 2019 presidential election, 92% of Christian voters cast their ballots for Jokowi. Yet Christians in Indonesia today can only beat their chests as they witness the shooting of a Papuan pastor getting ignored. President Jokowi did not pay his attention; instead, he showed his concern for the situation in Palestine days after Pastor Yeremia’s killing.

His caring attitude towards Palestine also did not escape criticism. The Chairperson of the Working Body for the Am Synod of the Evangelical Christian Church of Papua, Andrikus Mofu touched on Jokowi’s speech at the UN General Assembly on September 23. In the speech, he told CNN Indonesia, “Jokowi showed his sensitivity to a number of world issues, including the conflict in Palestine.” It’s just that, he added, such attention needs to be examined for the Papuan people in Indonesia.

Dora also told Pantau, “How can the President [only] see who is out there in Palestine, while before his eyes in Papua, his people were killed, yet the President did not give any comment?”

Christians are asking that an independent team be established immediately to conduct a fair, balanced investigation to reveal the culprit behind recent events in Papua. Many believe that the Indonesian Army (TNI) killed Pastor Yeremia.

At the moment, the Joint Fact Finding Team (TGPF) from the Indonesian government has been dispatched to investigate the shooting case against Yeremia Zanambani. The hope of Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and especially the Papuan people, is that the perpetrators of the murder can be arrested and put on trial in a timely manner.

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