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Jakarta Post

Papua's last Dutch pastors

Wed, September 13, 2017   /   11:52 am
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    Brother Jan Sjerp OFM: One of the three remaining Dutch catholic priests who now lives in Sentani, Papua. JP/Albertus Vembrianto

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    Tidying up: Before becoming a priest, Sjerp was concripted for three years in Europe. After the war, he returned home and worked as a farmer in the tradition of his family, until one morning, when a priest came to help the family with potato harvesting, which impressed Jan and made him desirous of joining the clergy. JP/Albertus Vembrianto

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    Baptism for the young: Father Lieshout once headed the Teachers Training School (SPG) in Jayapura. Entering retirement in 2007, he returned to Baliem valley. While executing his pastoral duties, he wrote books, including Sejarah Gereja Katolik di Lembah Baliem (History of the Catholic Church in Baliem Valley). JP/Albertus Vembrianto

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    Old times: Father Frans Lieshout OFM delivers a sermon in Bilogai, now located in Intan Jaya regency. The church's early entry into Papua was not smooth. A missionary school was burned by locals in Baliem Valley in 1961. Courtesy of Brother Jan Sjerp OFM, Father Lambertus H Hagendoorn OFM and Father Frans Lieshout OFM

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    Meet the locals: Father Lieshout shops at the market. He drives a Daihatsu Hijet from 1990's. JP/Albertus Vembrianto

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    Devotion: Father Lambertus H Hagendoorn OFM, 75, remains active in Yayasan Peduli AIDS (YAPEDA), a foundation in Timika engaged in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. JP/Albertus Vembrianto

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.