The Church’s response to Repression in West Papua
My credentials as an activist and churchman involved in West Papuan matters

1. lived there …

2. re-visited in 1995 and 2006 – brought video out of a bloody demonstration and spoke up. Lead story in one national network SBS, with many interviews on public broadcaster and front page of the leading newspaper in Australia The Melbourne Age.

3. part of a red cross team to help the 43 settle in Melbourne…

4. WP support group from St Hilary’s kew…

5. brought 2 motions to Anglican Diocese of Melbourne Synod: 2001, and 2009…concerning human rights and self determination for WP

6. involved in letter writing to politicians, awareness raising meetings…, travelled to Vanuatu four times for the cause of WP independence.

7. In may I resigned as a parish priest to work for freeedom for West Papua and to paint – those two things intersect sometimes
Most people you ask have no idea where WP is, let alone know what goes on there. Because of this vacuum of knowledge it is imperative for those who have lived there and are witnesses to provide insight.There is a definition of wrong in the book of james: If you know what is wrong but you don’t do anything about it then that is a sin.

So what can I do?

What should the church do concerning repression in West Papua? Big question, and not easily answered – especially in 10 minutes, but I’ll give it a try! I know that some of you will be a part of church communities and some not, but I hope what I say will be relevant for all.

1. The Church’s response to Repression in West Papua

Local Church in West Papua

The first missionaries entered West Papua on 5 Feb. 1855. That is still a holiday in WP celebrating the coming of the gospel. The church has still great respect and influence within the community. While the creations of the foreign missions, from Europe and after WW2 from America, the churches have became significant organisations with indigenous self-identity…Papuan run, the early educated elite were all church identities . Many pastors took on parliamentary positions. All people involved politically were church members.

The church finds itself caught: it has a long history of its own members being intimidated, raped, disappeared and killed. With that context it can’t help but make a political statement, but in fact it is contradictory:

1. It has not made any strong statement opposing the Indonesian rule, but

2. the church has not publicly condemned their church members who struggle for self-determination.

The time is rushing forward in WP towards an explosion point, and the church there is needing to make an unequivical political statement. This is why.
There is a inextricable link between human rights abuses and self-determination for West Papua. Human rights and the WP’s push for independence will always be logically and tragically linked. This is how it is played out: every generation of West Papuans is seeking independence. The history is known by the children and the grandchildren. The legal fraud is known. There is not one family untouched by jailing, murder, rape, intimidation, discrimination. Everybody is at the rough end of 40 years of non-development and rape of their land. So with every fibre of their beings their heart cry out for freedom – they will never stop. The military have one job – to repress this behaviour. They are charged with the job of protecting the soverignty of Indonesia. The have the government behind them concerning the law of treason - makar. respond with either heavy –handedness or deliberate repressive actions. Human rights therefore are trampled on and the people are itimidated and aroused to further grievance and they organise to come out from under what they see as a yoke of bondage in their own land. This is the vicious circle of the connection between human rights abuses and the independence movement.

The church’s role is to proclaim the good news of the man sent from God who died an unjust death and rose in great vindication. But the church has a prophetical function is to speak the truth and protect the people. The false prophets in the OT cried “Peace, peace”, when there is no peace”,s ays the prophet Jeremiah.
There are plenty of examples in recent history of both the bad and the good in the church’s prophetical role: bad – the reformed church in South Africa in the apartheit days, the protestant church refusing to speak against the Nazis as they came to power in Germany, the colour bar in some north american churches until recent history .

Fortunately there are good examples – Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s confessing church in Nazi Germany, the Catholic church in El Salvador where its archbishop Óscar Romero, wasassasinated in 1980 for his siding with the poor,…, some of the north american church’s involvement in the civil rights movement. Within Papua individual church leaders have spoken out about various things, and human rights, but the church now must make a stand, and join their own people’s call for a referendum that will bring some hope to the end of the killing and the terror of the population.

2. The response of the church outside WP, and especially the church in the united States of America.

We may be able to understand the reluctance or fear in the leadership of the churches inside WP. But there is no excuse for the churches here.
Not far from here a man gave a history changing speech with the words I have a Dream. It took a while for the churches to realise that that dream actually came from the heart of God and was rooted in Biblical truth that was chastising a nation regarding its treatment of the black people.
The main reason the church in America must take up this issue of West Papua is because it is the United States which engineered for the West Papuan people to fall into this valley of pain and suffering for the last 48 years. This nation is culpable in this matter. If the US had not pressurised the Dutch to hand over the nation of West Papua hundreds of thousands people would not have died. This is a terrible truth and it is very unpalatable for us to hear, but it is the truth. The United States had its reasons, and would not have wanted this to happen, but the fact is it has happened.
This should be national shame, and you need to be clear that the people in West Papua know what America did and they talk about it and write about it constantly. You need to know that you are seen as the nation who traded a nation like so much cattle, taken form one cattle enclosure to another. In response to this shame, what must the church here do?

1. The church in America must firstly know about this, know the history, know the reality now, and must respond. It should show its solidarity with the people who suffer – as we are urged to do in Hebrews 13 – to join Jesus who has gone out of the comfort and security of the city walls to suffer with his people. Some of you here will be involved in telling the church and community across America of this reality.

2. It should do all it can to publicly support the leaders who declare what I was talking about before: that human rights cannot be dealt with independently of the fundamental right of self-determination.
Recently Father. John Djonga, a Catholic priest, in an interview with the newspaper, Bintang Papua said “The abuse of human rights in Papua is caused by the fact that the rule of law is simply not functioning. If it were, those who were the perpetrators would think twice before acting against the law.” He said that the many conflicts and cases of violence, torture and other incidents occurring in Papua were because neither the security forces nor the government had any interest in siding with justice. Now this man and others should be publicly supported.

3. Thirdly the church should support practically, financial and otherwise, those who are working to bring this matter to the attention of the world. The Indonesian government is throwing millions of dollars at this matter to stop the Papuans voice being heard. The Papuans need support.

4. The church must also pressurise its members of Congress and Senate to revisit what the Papuans call this “dark history”, and set about righting it. This will mean reviewing its policy in regard to Indonesia, where Pres. Obama is right now. To bring before the United Nations the unfinished business that it thought it had dealt with but instead tragically had committed a travesty of international justice. That the United Nations give the West Papuan people who were never asked, that it delivered into the hands of terrible oppressors, their own right to choose their path and their own future without fear and with dignity.
I want to ask the question , for this to happen, really, – is it just too hard in the context of the world shifts and political alignments? Do nations have to be invaded? Does there have to be violent overthrow of the government? No and no.
Is it like Sudan or even Burma which probably need military intervention to make the changes to give the majority freedoms and safety and space for democratic values to flourish. We can see the difficulty of trying to impose these values by invasion in the scenarios of Afghanistan and Iraq still being played out. Violence often just begets violence.
On the contrary, it can be resolved without external military overthrow of the Indonesian occupiers.
But it cannot be resolved without bloodshed – that has happened already…and is happening now…