Three Dutch Catholic priests arrived in Papua more than 50 years ago following the transfer of authority of western Papua from the Netherlands to the Indonesian government.
It was a dark time for Papuans as they experienced human rights abuses and many tragedies.
The bitter memories of these abuses and tragedies are stamped on generations of Papuans.
Father Frans Lieshout arrived in Papua two weeks after the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) turned over authority of the region to Indonesia in 1963.
Brother Jan Sjerp followed in 1969, at a time when the implementation of the “Act of Free Choice” was criticized due to the involvement of the Indonesian military.
Finally, Father Lambertus H. Hagendoorn arrived in 1970.
The three belong to the Order of Friars Minor (OFM) and for the last five decades they have lived in Papua, living on the go in mountainous or coastal areas in order to perform their duties.
While handling church and religious affairs, they are also engaged in agriculture and education, managing children’s dormitories and other activities. It is therefore not surprising that the priests have ample knowledge about the manifold problems the Papuans have faced since the transfer of authority took place.
Since the transfer of authority, the main issue in Papua has always been the violation of human rights.
In the beginning, the perpetrators were those who came from outside Papua but today, the Papuans themselves damage one another. There is a growing tendency toward abuse of power and corruption among indigenous civilian officials.
The three priests believe education is crucial to ending the seemingly endless crises in Papua.