Merdeka - Papua cries for freedom

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Church leaders raise concern over human rights

 

JAKARTA. Continued serious human rights violations and a progressing mar ginalization of indigenous Papuans has been observed by an international delegation of 27 representatives of the World Council

of Churches who visited Indonesia between February 13 – 22. The members urged the Government of

Indonesia to take firm action to uphold the rule of law and hold accountable those who have

committed human rights violations in the past.

As a part of the „Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace“ the delegation was hosted by the PGI (Communion

of Churches in Indonesia) and by the GKI (Protestant Church in Papua) and met representatives of

churches, civil society and government in Jakarta, Java and in the provinces of Papua and Papua

Barat. Parts of the delegation visited churches and communities of other religions in Surabaya, and

met with authorities, churches and civil society representatives in Port Numbay, Merauke, Wamena

and Manokwari.

The delegation is very grateful for the access granted to them after the last visit in 1999 and hopes

that this marks the opening of the region to the international community, including the announced

access for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

„We were overwhelmed by the suffering of the victims and civil society representatives we met”, said

Peter Prove, Director for International Affairs of the WCC. „We heard from indigenous Papuans who

face discrimination in the education and health care sector. They suffer from land-grabbing and are

denied access to their own forest. In remote regions particularly, the lack of adequate access to public

services leaves people with a sense of being second class citizens in their own traditional land”, Prove

continued. The group was affected by the ongoing destruction of the environment as a result of the

exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

The delegation met with survivors of the Nduga armed conflict where a military response to the killing

of construction workers has affected the civilian population in the area. Hundreds had fled the region.

„The displaced persons of these combat zones fear to return because of intimidation by security

forces”, Prove stressed. „The protection of these people must be ensured.” The delegation is deeply

concerned that the political conflict relating to the region continues to be a source of armed violence

causing the death and suffering of civilians. 

In a pastoral appeal by church leaders of the two Papuan provinces, the WCC was requested to call

for a mediated conflict resolution process. „Papuans requested that Indonesia holds a dialogue with

the ULMWP“, Peter Prove explained and underlined: „A peaceful dialogue between the parties in

conflict should commence as soon as possible. The approach of a mediated dialogue has proven to

be an effective conflict resolution measure in other cases like the one in Aceh.“

The participants of the pilgrim team visit were shocked and deeply disturbed that the massive human

rights violations since 1969 remain unresolved. None of the cases of gross violations of human rights

has effectively been brought to justice. Many appear not to have been documented yet by the National

Human Rights Commission.

The WCC pilgrimage took place in cooperation with the Pacific Conference of Churches, the Christian

Conference of Asia, the United Evangelical Mission and was accompanied by Roman Catholic partner

organizations.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.

A short history

 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. 

Afteryears 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.

Pacific church stand

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.

A region united

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.

Police seize Papua flag

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.