Killing of Papuan clergyman sparks information clash, congregations flee

Indonesian soldier in Papua
An Indonesian soldier on patrol in Papuan rainforest. Image: Sigid Kurniawan/CNN Indonesia/Antara

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Tabernacle Bible Church of Indonesia’s congregation from the Intan Jaya regency in Papua has fled into the forests in fear after the killing of a pastor at the weekend, allegedly by the military, reports CNN Indonesia.

The church (GKII) says it believes Rev Yeremia Zanambani was shot dead by members of the TNI (Indonesian military) on Saturday, September 19.

This is different from a statement issued earlier by the TNI which claimed that Zanambani had been shot by a “criminal armed group” (KKB) – the Indonesian government’s term for the rebel Free Papua Movement (OPM).

Rev Yeremia Zanambani
Rev Yeremia Zanambani … alleged to have been shot dead by the Indonesian military in Hitadiap village on Saturday. Image: Suara Papua

The information on the shooting was first uploaded by the GKII’s Facebook account @gkiipusat.

GKII national secretariat head Yahya Jahatela confirmed the information, saying that Zanambani was shot as he was going to his pig pen to feed the animals.

“Yes, that’s correct. Currently we are still waiting on written information and data from Papua, but the information is indeed correct,” said Jahatela when contacted by CNN Indonesia by phone yesterday.

Jahatela said that following the incident, seven or eight churches were empty with their congregations seeking refuge in the forest.

‘Congregations afraid’
“The congregations have fled into the forests because they’re afraid,” he said.

The GKII considers the incident to be a serious blow for church services in Intan Jaya and it is distressed about the loss of a spiritual figure for the Moni tribal people.

Zanambani was the head of the GKII church for the Hitadipa regency in Intan Jaya and was known as an evangelist who was dedicated and had integrity as well as a translator of the Bible into the Moni local language.

Jahatela said that they intend to write a protest to the government after obtaining complete data from the Papua GKII.

“[We’re] praying for the planned burial … and hope that the security forces can be prudent and behave fairly in safeguarding innocent people,” wrote the GKII central office on its Facebook account.

Earlier, III Joint Regional Defense Command (Kogabwihan) information head Colonel Czi IGN Suriastawa said that Zanambani had been shot dead by an armed criminal group in Hitadipa.

According to Suriastawa, armed criminal groups had been spreading “slander” by accusing the TNI of shooting Zanambani.

‘Attracting attention’
“As I said yesterday, they are looking for momentum to attract attention from the United Nations General Assembly meeting at the end of the month,” said Suriastawa in a press release on Sunday.

Suriastawa appealed to local people not to be provoked by the slander, particularly through social media.

“It’s clear that its being setup and manipulated to provoke the people, corner the TNI and Polri [Indonesian police] and government in the lead up to the UN SU (general session),” he said.

Suriastawa said that the death of Zanambani added to the long list of casualties.

He said that several days ago Papuan armed groups had attacked a civilian and two TNI soldiers.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Gereja Duga Pendeta Tewas di Intan Jaya Papua Ditembak TNI”.

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