Tuesday, June 22, 2021

RLPB 603. Papua (Indonesia): Islamic Terror Plot Foiled; State Terror Continues.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 603 | Wed 23 Jun 2021
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- meanwhile state terror continues unabated, as does internet blackout.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Archbishop of Merauke,
Petrus Mandagi.

In a series of raids commencing 28 May, Indonesia's counter-terrorism squad, Densus 88, arrested 12 Islamic terror suspects in Papua's south-eastern Merauke Regency. According to Merauke district police chief, Adjunct Senior Commissioner Untung Sangaji, the terror suspects were preparing to carry out suicide bombings in at least two police stations and several churches in Merauke city, Jagebob, Kurik, Semangga and Tanah Miring. They were also plotting to kill the Catholic Archbishop of Merauke, Petrus Canisius Mandagi. It is the second time the Archbishop has been targeted for assassination. On 1 January the would-be assassins turned up at the Archbishop's residence, only to find he was out of town. On Sunday 30 May the would-be suicide bombers made their way to Merauke's Cathedral of St Francis Xavier only to find that the Archbishop was out of town and the police were ready and waiting in place.

click on map to enlarge.

The 12 terror suspects are members of the Islamic State-affiliate Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group, the same group that carried out the suicide bombing at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Sunday 28 March, killing themselves and wounding some 20 church officials and members [RLPB 591 (31 March 2021)]. JAD is just one of several jihadists groups to have threatened to wage jihad in the Papuan Provinces [RLPB 523 (9 Oct 2019)]. Consequently, whilst this plot may have been neutralised, the jihadist threat remains.

Meanwhile, in the Central Highlands, state terror continues unabated. Speaking from Papua's capital, Jayapura, Catholic priest Father John Djonga explains that as soon as Jakarta labelled Papuan armed groups 'terrorist', it gave Indonesian troops a licence to 'shoot anyone'. Experts at Melbourne University agree, warning that the anti-terror approach will 'further embed a culture of impunity for state violations of rights' and 'fuel the cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of many ordinary people, from schoolchildren to pastors'.

Reverend Laban Hagabal.
Shot dead by Indonesian counter-terror
forces, 4am, 16 May 2021.

With the internet still down, news is scarce. However, Human Rights Papua reports that on 15 May security forces attacked the Central Highland villages of Toegi, Mayuberi, Kabuki, Amungi, Olenki, Maki and Ayali with ground troops and two attack helicopters. A Kingmi Papua church (Protestant) in Kabuki was reportedly damaged during the air raid. [The Indonesian military has long accused the Gereja Kemah Injil Papua (Gospel Tabernacle Church Papua), or Kingmi Church, of being actively pro-OPM (Free Papua Movement).] Shortly after the attack, all villagers from Toegi, including Kingmi pastor Reverend Laban Hagabal, decided to flee to Demaju Village. Shortly after they arrived, a group of West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) fighters also arrived in Demaju. At around 4.00 am the next morning, security forces launched an attack on Demaju Village. As panicked Papuans fled in every direction, Reverend Laban Hagabal and one TPN PB member were shot dead. As of 1 June, relatives, church representatives and a tribal leader had not been permitted to retrieve the bodies.

On 25 May a group of Church leaders, including Archbishop Petrus Mandagi of Merauke, Papua, Indonesian Bishops' Conference president Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta and Reverend Ronny Mandang, chairman of the Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches and Institutions, Jakarta, met with Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD and offered to mediate talks between the Indonesian government and Papuan armed groups. With thousands of ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian, indigenous Papuans now displaced throughout the Central Highlands - many without food, clean water, medical aid or shelter - it is urgent that military violence cease and that a door be opened for humanitarian assistance. Human rights-affirming democracies must take a stand against Indonesian state terror in Papua.


* intervene in Papua for the sake of his precious people! Lord in your mercy, protect Papua's churches and pastors from Islamic jihadist terror and state-sanctioned military violence. Lord in your mercy, grant Christian leaders engaged in mediation, advocacy and decision-making an abundance of wisdom, discernment, creativity and authority.

'You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you' (Psalm 89:13-14 ESV).

* open a door so that displaced Papuans might receive all the humanitarian assistance they require! Lord in your mercy, supply their every need for shelter, food, clean water, medical aid, security and spiritual comfort.

* facilitate the entrance into Papua of international observers so that we might know what is happening in the Central Highlands. May the Indonesian government be held to account! May the nations and organisations that first betrayed and then abandoned the Papuan people repent and make things right!

For background and more prayer points see RLPB 597 (12 May)


In raids commencing on 28 May, Indonesia's counter-terrorism squad arrested 12 Islamic terror suspects in Papua's south-eastern Merauke regency. All were members of JAD, one of several jihadist groups threatening to wage jihad in the Papuan Provinces. They had been preparing to attack police stations and several churches throughout Merauke. Meanwhile state terror continues unabated in the Central Highlands. On 15-16 May Indonesian forces backed by two attack helicopters attacked a string of villages in Puncak Jaya Regency driving thousands of Papuans from their homes. Protestant pastor Reverend Laban Hagabal of Kingmi Church Papua was shot and killed in a pre-dawn raid. Thousands of mostly Christian Papuans are displaced; many in the bush. The internet remains down, and the region remains closed; hunger and death loom. Please pray.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc. (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com