Tuesday, October 16, 2012

RLPB 181. Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Eastern Indonesia: Sweeping Wamena

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 181 | Wed 17 Oct 2012


-- plus URGENT UPDATE on Pakistan

By Elizabeth Kendal

The Dutch first brought the gospel to Dutch (West) New Guinea, along with health care and education, gradually transforming the coastal towns. When Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA arrived in the mid-1900s, the previously inaccessible interior was opened to pioneer missionaries, several of whom lost their lives in the service of the gospel. In a relatively short space of time (in history), endless tribal war and shamanism came to be replaced with worship of the Lord -- Papua was transformed. (For an interview with one of those pioneer missionaries, see here: Peace Child.)

When Indonesia gained independence in 1949, the Dutch retained control of Irian Jaya believing the Melanesian Christians were simply too distinct from Javanese Muslims to be under Indonesian rule. Indonesia, however, invaded the resource-rich region in 1961 and, with the complicity of the UN and USA, annexed it in 1969. Ever since, Papua's Melanesian Christians have suffered while their spectacular land has been militarised, exploited, colonised and Islamised.  What we are witnessing is the slow genocide of a Christian people. The West ignores this, deeming good relations with Indonesia to be more in line with Western economic and geo-strategic interests. Surely God is not pleased.

West Papua National Committee (KNPB) is a pro-independence advocacy group committed to peaceful activism. Because 'Special Autonomy' has failed, the KNPB is calling for the UN to oversee a referendum on self-determination. In early June Indonesian soldiers rampaged (photos) though the KNPB stronghold of Wamena, the largest town in the central highlands. Then on 14 June Indonesian police shot KNPB deputy, Moses Mako Tabuni, in a Jayapura street. Shot in the hip, he died in police custody en route to hospital. Police allege Tabuni was 'resisting arrest', but human rights groups doubt this and local witnesses deny it. UK-based Papuan activist Benny Wenda has labelled it an 'assassination'.

On 29 September, after a couple of minor bombing incidents, Indonesian authorities launched a sweep through Wamena and its surrounding villages. They claim they found explosive materials in the homes of KNPB members, nine of whom have been arrested. Papua is a deeply Christianised culture and many Papuan civic leaders are also church leaders. One such leader, the Moderator of the Papuan Baptist Church, Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, is certain the bombings were the work of Indonesian security forces who are now using them to justify launching anti-terror operations against peaceful, pro-independence activists. Human rights monitors agree with that assessment. The director of the Papua branch of Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), Ferry Marisan, comments: 'We observed their [KNPB's] activities in Papua . . . they never staged violent acts, let alone kept firearms or explosives.' Actually, it is the modus operandi of the Indonesian security forces that is all-too-familiar. (See TNI 'sweeps' Puncak Jaya, July 2010 & Evidence of Human Rights Abuses, Aug 2010.) Driven by racial and religious hatred and greed, the Indonesian security forces (who make a lot of money in Papua) routinely provoke or fake Papuan separatist incidents to justify launching vastly disproportionate, violent anti-terror measures against the separatists.

Indonesian police, the Australian-trained anti-terrorism squad Detachment 88 and the TNI (Indonesian military) have been sweeping Wamena and surrounding villages, forcing thousands of Papuans to flee into the bush. (See here for 6.29 min news report by ABC's 7.30 Report - 4 Oct 2012 - film and transcript.) On 10 October one pastor, who hopes his presence with the displaced will provide them with a degree of protection and a means of communication, made an urgent appeal for prayer.  Mass rallies protesting Indonesian repression and human rights abuses will be held across Papua on Wednesday 24 October.


* intervene for his displaced and traumatised people; may he in indignation fight for them and compensate them, and in love gather, lead, carry and comfort them. 'Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.' (Isaiah 40:10,11 ESV)

* magnify, sharpen and empower the voices of Papuan church leaders who risk their lives to speak out against cruelty and injustice; may their words not only enter ears and be heard, but pierce consciences and compel action.

* effect a breakthrough to prevent genocide and restore the dignity of his people, that the LORD might be praised and glorified in Papua.


Papua's Melanesian Christians suffer under Indonesian rule as their land is militarised, exploited, colonised and Islamised by Javanese Muslims. This is the slow genocide of a Christian people. Driven by racial and religious hatred and greed, Indonesian security forces routinely provoke or fake Papuan separatist attacks to justify launching violent anti-terror measures against Papuan civilians. Since June, Indonesian security forces (including Detachment 88) have been 'sweeping' Wamena, the largest town in the central highlands, on the pretext of fighting terrorism. Thousands of Papuan civilians have been driven from their homes into the inhospitable jungle. Nine members of the pro-peace, pro-independence advocacy group, the West Papua National Committee, have been framed as 'terrorists'. Church leaders are appealing for help, and especially for prayer.




Ryan Stanten (16) lives in the middle class district of Mobina in Karachi. As the only Christian in his class at school, Ryan is regularly pressured by Muslim classmates to convert to Islam, something he steadfastly refuses to do. On Tuesday 9 October Ryan received a text message on his mobile phone for forwarding to Muslim friends. He forwarded it to his Muslim school friends without bothering to read it and suddenly he was being accused of blasphemy. The family fled that night. The next day local Muslims, led by a local Islamic cleric, thoroughly ransacked the family's home,  dragging out and burning all their property, despite it being in a supposedly secure compound.  No-one has been arrested. The family's name has been put on an Exit Control List so they cannot leave the country. This is NOT the handiwork of the Taliban! It is the work of Muslim school 'friends' and middle class 'neighbours' with the tacit approval of the State. Please pray for Ryan Stanten and his family, and for the Church in Pakistan. 


With persecution escalating and intensifying globally, please consider participating in International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the persecuted church in the week 4-11 November.  'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood . . .' (Ephesians 6:12). See: Critical Prayer Requests (CPR)