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On behalf of the JPIC General Office, Br. Taucen Girsang visited the Province of St Francis Herald of Peace in West Papua-Indonesia, from 20-29 April 2024, to listen and to exchange experiences with the friars regarding JPIC activities.

It was Br. Alexandro Rangga OFM, as the provincial JPIC Animator, who organized this visit programme which consisted of several meetings with brothers in some fraternities in different areas around West Papua, namely Jayapura, Agats, Abepura, Wamena, and Sentani.

Arriving in the morning of 20 April at Sentani-Jayapura International Airport, Br. Taucen was escorted by local JPIC staff and welcomed by Br. William Bungan OFM, the guardian, Mgr. Leo Laba Ladjar OFM, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Jayapura, and Br. Aloysius Gonzaga Rusmadji OFM, the provincial, at provincial house in Jayapura. Located 37 kilometers from the Airport, Jayapura, the capital city of West Papua, is a place where the friars work in various ministries.

Other fraternity is in Agats, the capital of Asmat Regency. It is a town in a tidal lowland area in which all buildings and roads are elevated with wooden. To reach this place from Jayapura, depending on the weather, flights were taken by Br. Taucen and Br. Alexandro from Sentani to Timika Airport and from Timika to Ewer Airport in Agats. They stayed here for 21-22 April. They were hosted by Mgr. Aloysius Murwito OFM, bishop of Diocese of Asmat and Br. Stefanus Sabinus OFM, the guardian, at the diocesan guest house. Some of the activities included visiting the Catholic Senior High School (SMAK), having a dialogue with the students and teachers, meeting with the bishop and the friars, and visiting the Asmat Museum.

On the return from Agats to Jayapura, in the afternoon of 23 April, they shared with the fraternity in the provincial house especially about what is happening in West Papua such as violence and conflict, deforestation, mining, natural disaster, and how the Franciscans have been responding to these issues and giving a living testimony. In addition, the topic of collaboration at local, national, conferential, and international level was also well covered. This insightful gathering was followed by a fraternal dinner and recreation in warmth and joy.

In the morning of 24 April, the brothers were invited by Br. Aventinus Jenaru OFM, secretary of the Diocese of Jayapura, to meet with the bishop of Jayapura, Mgr. Yanuarius Teofilus Matopai You. Later in the afternoon, they visited a hospice that treat people with HIV aids and met with the temporary professed friars at the formation house in Abepura. Some human rights cases, conflicts, climate crisis, and how the Franciscans collaborate with others in responding to global issues of JPIC were discussed. During the meeting and dinner, it became clear that every friar is called to be more sensitive to social issues and to be able to discern the signs of the times.

On the 25th of April, Br. Taucen and Br. Alexandro spent the whole day in Sentani. Here, they met with the friars who serve in parish, retreat house, school, orphanage, the provincial office for JPIC, as well as with aspirants and novices. A dialogue with the friars here specifically addressed how Franciscan spirituality and identity responds to the challenges of today and how Franciscan should collaborate in internal and external fraternity.

Furthermore, from Sentani, the brothers took another morning flight on 26 April to meet the friars in Wamena, a largest town in the province of Highland Papua. Located in the Balliem Valley, they were welcomed by the guardian, Br. Gregorius Atu Wea, other friars and postulants, in postulancy house, in Pikhe Siepkossy. Balliem Valley is a fertile area surrounded by mountains. However, the area is also plagued by conflict and violence between the local Papuans and national army.

During the meeting, brothers from two fraternities around Wamena, Pikhe and Yiwika, talked with Br. Taucen and Br. Alexandro about JPIC activities both at the provincial level and at the conference level. In their sharing, the brothers highlighted how they have been labouring intensively to help the local indigenous people in terms of educational assistance and empowerment. For more concrete endeavours, a simple trip was guided by the guardian to Kimbim, the parish served by brother Capucine, where the local indigenous empowerment projects in the cultivation of fish, chicken, pigs, rice, sweet potatoes and others are being undertaken dan developed. On 27 April, after visiting Yiwika’ parish, Honai museum, Franciscan sisters and Dekenat House, Br. Taucen and Br. Alexandro went back to Sentani.

On Sunday morning, 28 April, they were invited by the Wamena community, a predominantly Papuans from Highland, to celebrate Mass together in a small chapel called Stasi Angkasa in Jayapura. Together with this community, the main elements of their culture in the form of dance, song, food and drink were wonderfully displayed both before, during and after Mass. It was a special moment of encounter where the local culture was preserved as identity without losing it in the plurality.

Before leaving for Rome, on 29 April, Br. Taucen had the opportunity to dialogue with the Provincial JPIC staff in Sentani. The various activities of the Provincial JPIC such as data collection for the Memoria Passionisseries of reports, human rights advocacy, lobbying at national and international levels, social services, eco-pastoral, animation, training, including various collaborations with NGOs, churches and the Inter-Franciscan Forum were presented. On this occasion, appreciation and thankfulness were expressed to the Province of St Francis Herald of Peace.


Br. Taucen Girsang