CATHOLIC bishops from across the Pacific region have declared support for West Papua to have a greater international voice.
Dignity for West Papuans was a focus issue for the executive committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands meeting in Port Moresby.
Toowoomba Bishop Robert McGuckin and Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long represented Australia.
“They (West Papuans) seek what every family and culture seeks: respect of personal and communal dignity, free expression of one’s aspirations, and good neighbourly relations,” the Catholic bishops said in a statement.
“Political boundaries can never contain or control ethnic relationships and so we urge governments to support the West Papuan people’s desire to participate fully in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.”
The Melanesian Spearhead Group is an inter-governmental organisation composed of the four Melanesian states of Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front of New Caledonia.
Last year, Indonesia was recognised as an associate member, however West Papua’s independence movement has so far failed to be admitted to the group.
“… Blocked participation in MSG is a wound in the side of all Melanesians,” the bishops said.
“For West Papuans, the MSG is a natural place of collaboration and a potential source of deeper regional understanding.”
The bishops have also spoken out about the treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
“Callousness can never be the proper response to human tragedy,” the bishops said.
“We applaud PNG’s Supreme Court’s decision that the Manus Island detention centre is unconstitutional and illegal and we trust the Australian and other authorities will act swiftly in implementing a humane plan of rehabilitation for the detainees.”