Mar 27, 2023

Residents of bombed village mull return home

Pastor Kamena and his family had to flee from their home village of Igy when it was bombed by the Indonesian military. Like other displaced West Papuans, they settled in the provincial capital of Wamena. While the pastor wants to return home, his wife is hesitant.


Pastor Kamena is determined to return home. csi

That Pastor Kamena’s family is still alive borders on a miracle. Talking to a CSI team from Switzerland, he says: “When the Indonesian military bombed our village of Igy in 2019, our house was also hit. But the bombs did not detonate.”

Panic-stricken, residents ran in all directions. Parents and children lost sight of each other. With the help of others, Kamena managed to bring the scattered villagers back together. Together they fled in the direction of the provincial capital, Wamena.

The people from Igy were on the road for a month – an arduous journey that involved crossing the high central mountain range. Besides the physical strain, the displaced people lived in fear of being discovered by the military.

“We had to be constantly on our guard. The soldiers don’t distinguish between civilians and freedom fighters of the OPM (Free Papua Movement),” says the pastor.

Not at home in Wamena

In Wamena, the new arrivals joined relatives or friends. As a rule, the latter were willing to help and gave their acquaintances from Igy a piece of land to cultivate.

Since countless people have also fled to Wamena from other regions of West Papua, many new churches have been built here in recent years.

But for the displaced from Igy, it is difficult to feel at home in the provincial capital of West Papua. Says Pastor Kamena, “Almost all of us are toying with the idea of returning home.”

In Wamena, he says, Igy residents face many social problems. Many children become addicted to alcohol, and a number have already died of alcohol addiction.

Some of the displaced travel back to Igy occasionally for short periods to see for themselves the state of their bombed-out village. But so far, no one has returned permanently.

Pastor Kamena has also visited Igy several times since fleeing. He is determined to return. But his wife has so far refused to go.

When the pastor couple was on the run, they once lost sight of their child for a short time. “My wife is still traumatized by this experience,” explains Kamena, who makes it clear that he will not return to Igy permanently without her.

He acknowledges that a new start in the devastated village would be problematic. Some in the diaspora churches in Wamena consider it still too dangerous to return.

Nevertheless, Pastor Kamena is sticking to his plans: “I was born in Igy. God put me there as a pastor.”

CSI supports people like Pastor Kamena so that they can tell their story and thereby draw attention to the fate of the displaced Christian Papuans. The international media are denied entry to West Papua.

Reto Baliarda

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