An Indonesia Catholic bishop appealed for the respect of the rights of the indigenous Dayak Iban people on the island of Borneo.
“No need to teach the Dayak Iban about conservation projects or to preserve their social values,” said Archbishop Agustinus Agus of Pontianak during a visit to the island last week.
The bishop noted that the tribe, considered as the oldest people in the region, have been practicing indigenous values in their daily life.
Land grabbing, illegal logging, and land conversion, however, threatened the indigenous communities on the island of Kalimantan.
Archbishop Agus said that aside from outside help, the Dayak Iban people need to have their rights to their land protected.
During his pastoral visit to remote area in Kapuas Hulu District in West Kalimantan (Borneo) Province, the bishop laid the foundation of a new local church building in a village on the banks of Kapuas River, Indonesia’s longest near the border with Sabah.
The prelate also blessed the newly erected “Rumah Bentang,” or “longhouse,” a traditional Dayak Iban structure.
Archbishop Agus noted that due to the remote location of the villages, the natural ecosystem, such as dense forests, clean water streams, and animals, has been preserved.
“If you are told to deliver aid, or other development program, to the Dayal Iban, you have to do it now,” said the bishop. “No need to wait for poverty to rise,” he added.
The prelate lauded the community for protecting the environment.