West Papuans mourn the passing of Pastor Dr. Neles Kebadaby Tebay Pr, Catholic priest, prolific author and journalist, peace facilitator, and Indigenous champion of Truth, Peace, and Justice.

All West Papuans are saddened by the passing of Father Neles in the Catholic hospital St Carolus Borromeus (Jakarta).

Dr Tebay was born in 1964 in the Me village of Godide amidst the spectacular cliffs, rivers and waterfalls of the Kamu Valley west of Lake Paniai, and ordained in 1992 after studies at the Fajar Timur School of Philosopy and Theology in Abepura.

He was one of the few highlanders of his generation to study overseas, graduating in 1997 with a Masters from the Ateneo Jesuit research university in Quezon City (Philippines), and in 2006 as a Doctor of Philosophy from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. His doctoral thesis, The Reconciling Mission of the Church in West Papua in the Light of Reconciliation and Repentance, formed the basis of his important mediation work between Indonesian authorities and the West Papuan independence movement.

As Co-ordinator of the Papua Peace Network, Dr Tebay advocated the necessity of a dialogue rather than security-driven approach to the West Papuan independence movement’s long-standing concerns. His fifty-page proposal to the Indonesian government advocating a course of action around the issues of Melanesian sovereignty, dignity and liberty was eventually recognised by Indonesian intellectuals, parliamentarians, military generals, NGOs, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) as well as West Papuan freedom fighters. At the same time the prolific peace warrior was advocating Papuan understandings of human rights, justice, peace, and multiculturalism in public forums across Java, in newspapers like the Jakarta Post and Suara Pembaharuan, and in the five books he authored:

West Papua: The struggle for peace with justice, Catholic Institute for International Relations/CIIR, London, 2005;

Interfaith endeavours for Peace in West Papua, Missio Aachen, Germany, 2006;

Papua: Its Problems and possibilities for a peaceful solution, Secretariat, Justice and Peace, Jayapura Diocese, 2008;

Dialog Jakarta-Papua : sebuah perspektif Papua /a Papuan perspective, Secretariat, Justice and Peace, Jayapura Diocese, 2009;

Reconciliation and peace : interfaith endeavours for peace in West Papua, Melanesian Institute, Goroka, Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 2012.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leads the people of West Papua in thanking Fr Neles for his important work. God gives, and now God has taken you home to join our other freedom heroes and heroines.

Jacob Rumbiak
ULMWP Spokesperson

Read ULMWP Chairman Benny Wenda’s personal homage to Father Neles here.