It is now 2015 and we begin the new year by continuing our decades old struggle for freedom and independence from Indonesia. For West Papuans, this is a struggle that began on 1 May, 1963 when the Indonesian Goverment first occupied our homeland, using military force to dominate our people. Fifty odd years later I find myself living a world away in Washington, D.C., seat of power of the influential United States Goverment. Since I arrived in what Americans call “Our Nation’s Capitol”, I feel fortunate to have spent many hours with professors, students, government officials, non-government organisations, and friends, and their families discussing the situation in West Papua. I was surprised to learn that most Americans have no idea about the political situation in West Papua, how West Papuans have been deprived of our basic human rights for over five decades, or even West Papua’s geographical location. To feel disheartened about this lack of international awareness of my people’s plight would be a natural response, however, I choose to look at this revelation as an important opportunity for our struggle. There is a gaping hole in the American people’s knowledge of my homeland and I intend to fill it with the truth of the West Papuan people’s story and their brutal mistreatment at the hands of the Indonesian Government. Bearing witness is one of my key reasons for escaping my homeland and living in exile. After fifty plus years of being silenced by Indonesia, West Papuans now have the opportunity, through me, to use our “voice” to capture the attention of the American people, who I have found to be staunch supporters for ending human rights violations throughout the world. There is a strong belief amongst the people I have spoken to here in America that non-violent resistance is the most effective way for West Papua to achieve independence and that this strategy will open up significant opportunities to further bring our plight and struggle to the public’s attention. I begin this year with true West Papuan Christmas tales that will begin to shed light on what it is like to be an indigenous West Papuan under Indonesian rule. Experiencing this past Christmas in free America makes me reflect upon what Christmas means to some of us. Christmas is a time when people come together and experience joy and laughter. However, joy and laughter have been coupled with sorrow and tears in the long West Papuan struggle for independence. On 25 December 1989 I celebrated Christmas behind the bars of an Indonesian military prison, at that time not yet imprisoned myself. Under the ever watchful and intimidating gaze of six Indonesian prison guards I was allowed to visit my uncle, Dr Thomas Wainggai (a West Papuan independence leader at the time). Despite the circumstances, it is shared time with my uncle that I am grateful for, as some seven years later in 1996 he was killed at the will of the Indonesian Government while serving 20 years in jail because of his political beliefs. Political imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial killing are just part of the story of the West Papuan people and their struggle – a harsh Christmas carol. I myself celebrated a few Christmases in prison as a guest of the Indonesian Government for my beliefs in Melanesian self-determination, human rights and human dignity. It was like a waking nightmare lived out in a dark room for months on end. I was denied access to a toilet, the cement floor was my bed, and I had a single shirt and pair of shorts for the duration of my stay. My books and writing materials were confiscated and never returned to me. It was the most inhumane experience I have had to endure in my life and it was done so with two guards vigilantly pointing their guns at me. A more positive Christmas story in my personal journey to West Papuan independence is set at sea. On 25 December 2005 I was with my comrades floating to freedom on a journey to Australia where I would be granted political asylum in recognition of the danger to my life in being returned to Indonesia. This Christmas at sea was a stepping stone on my path to the United States and my chance to speak for the people of West Papua and request the United Nations intervene on their behalf to help them peacefully resist occupation and end the genocide and human rights violations they have been subjected to. I look back on Christmases past with sorrow as well as joy, tears as well as laughter. But tonight I truly enjoy the full blessing of freedom here in Virginia. I miss West Papua and hope and pray we will be blessed with freedom someday. Then I will go back and enjoy that freedom with all those left behind.