IN 1961 the Netherlands granted independence to the people of West Papua as it gave up control of the Dutch East Indies. The Morning Start flag was raised on December 1 but Indonesia, after an initial failed invasion, coerced the United Nations to hold a staged referendum in which 1000 select Papuans voted for affiliation with Indonesia. The move was supported by the United States and Australia who had strategic interests in Papua.
AFTER years of human rights abuse at the hands of Indonesian security forces and a separatist war staged by Papuan freedom fighters, a new battle has emerged. Indonesia has started to move thousands of non-Papuans into the territory in an attempt to create a new ethnic base. The act has been termed modern-day genocide by human rights groups.
THE churches of Papua were instrumental in the formation of the PCC. After Indonesian annexation in 1968 the Papuan churches became Asian-focussed. This changed in 2013 after the PCC and its members lobbied for an act of self-determination in West Papua and its inscription in the UN Decolonisation list. After a visit to West Papua by PCC Moderator, Reverend Dr Tevita Havea, in 2014 two Papuan churches - the Gereja Kristen Injil di Tannah Papua and the KINGMI church - rejoined the Pacific fold. The PCC continues to call for West Papuans to be allowed to choose freely their political future.
PACIFIC church leaders have rallied around the PCC call for self-determination in West Papua. This has led to the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu calling at the United Nations for decolonisation. A PCC initiative also saw the formation of a coalition of Papuan freedom groups to form the United Front for the Liberation of West Papua in 2015.
IN November 2015 PCC staff raised the Morning Star flag in Suva, Fiji to commemorated West Papuan independence. The flag was visible to people in the Indonesian Embassy who rang the Fiji Prime Minister's Office to complain. Minutes later police arrived at the PCC Secretariat and seized the flag. The action came on a day when youth activists held peaceful protests and a church service in solidarity with West Papua's people.
WE call on member churches to design a specific liturgy on December 4 to remember all Pacific people who remain colonised. This year we remember the people of West Papua, Kanaky (New Caledonia), Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) and Guam. The Pacific cannot be free until all its people are free.