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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya, Indonesia (February 25, 2000 - Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---All 11 Protestant denominations here have declared their rejection of the separatist movement, but vowed to maintain truth and justice for the sake of peace in the restive province.

Rev. John Imbiri, secretary of the synod of the Evangelical Christian Church (GKI), told The Jakarta Post that the rejection was clear evidence that the churches took a neutral stance in the political fray that has long battered the nation’s easternmost province.

Imbiri said that the declaration signed by church leaders would be made public soon. "People want to know whether the churches reject or support the demand for an independent West Papua."

The declaration says that the independence demand was an old issue.

"The desire has become stronger following injustice and human rights violations for more than 30 years. But the churches do not take sides with any group." The declaration also says that Church is "to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of God along with its values like truth, justice, peace and rejoicing."

Enhancing truth and justice is the prerequisite for peace, the church leaders said, "therefore, the churches reject any attempt to oppose the value of truth and justice."

The churches will continue raising a prophetic voice against any institutions or individuals when dignity is not respected by rights violations, discrimination and any form of injustice, the statement said.

Meanwhile in Sentani, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of here, some 2,500 people attended the first ever Papuan Congress, which was opened on Wednesday.

The congress, sponsored by the Institute of the Papuan Assembly, was aimed at finding peaceful solutions to the lingering problems in Papua.

Twenty-eight leading figures of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), who live in Papua New Guinea (PNG), also attended the congress, which will end on February 26.

Frans Albert Yoku, leader of the PNG delegation, told the Post that the delegation consisted of residents of Irian Jaya (West Papua) who escaped to PNG for survival. "We come to give necessary contributions to the struggle of West Papuan independence," Frans said.

The church leaders earlier called on the provincial and Jakarta authorities to let the congress be held in order to give Papuans the chance to promote democracy and human rights.

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