Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Circumcision ‘too Islamic’ for Papuan Churches

Circumcision ‘too Islamic’ for Papuan Churches
Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post, Jayapura | Tue, 11/08/2011 11:56 PM
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The government has recommended circumcision for people in Papua over the past two years as a new approach to curbing rapid increases in, cases of HIV/AIDS infection.

In other parts of Indonesia, circumcision is common and is a part of a culture that has been preserved within the community over many generations. In Papua, however, people do not always prioritize common practices in place of the lingering presence of older practices.

For Papuans, circumcision is often considered to be in opposition to baptism, because it tends to be related to Muslims.

“The tradition of the church in Papua does not recognize circumcision because it has been replaced by baptism, despite the fact that the Bible does not state that circumcision is replaced with baptism. But baptism is a fulfillment of circumcision. Jesus himself, as a Jew, was also circumcised,” Isak Samuel Kijne college theological lecturer Rev. Sostenes Sumihe said on Monday.

“After the circumcision campaign, many Papuans began circumcising their children and many called us to ask whether circumcision is against our religion. I told them that it is not against religion and it is not a sin.”

Papua AIDS Eradication Commission (KPA) head Constant Karma said that based on a recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO), circumcision could curb 60 percent of HIV/AIDS infections.

“Based on WHO recommendations, circumcisions can suppress HIV/AIDS infections by up to 60 percent, so we are obliged to disseminate good information,” he said.

Constant cited that 100 percent of the Toraja ethnic community residing in Papua are followers of Protestantism, carried out circumcision and there were very few that had been infected by the disease.

“Presently, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Papua has reached 10,500 cases, and 80 percent of them are Papuans and 20 percent are non-Papuans. Of the 20 percent, only 14 cases involve those from the Toraja ethnic community,” he added.

According to Constant, the circumcision campaign, which has been conducted over the last three years, has yielded significant results. Last year, of the 350 children circumcised, 76 were Papuan children. The program was sponsored by the National Family Planning Board. “This shows that members of the community are starting to understand the importance of circumcision for medical and health reasons.”

According to Sumihe, Papuan churches grouped under the Papua Church Association will issue pastoral calls in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. “HIV/AIDS is a serious issue in Papua, so that the church is called upon to prevent its followers from spreading it.”

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