Tuesday, June 18, 2013

RLPB 215. Papua (Indonesia): from mission field to killing field

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 215 | Wed 19 Jun 2013


By Elizabeth Kendal

In the 1950s, missionaries working with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA and Australia brought the Gospel to the central highlands of the then Dutch New Guinea (the western part of the island of New Guinea). Since then, Indonesia has invaded, occupied, annexed, Islamised, militarised and colonised the region. Today, the indigenous, predominantly Christian Melanesians of Papua are a suffering and dying people. Like so many persecuted minorities in strategic 'swing' states, Papuans find their appalling plight being covered up and whitewashed by powerful forces engaged in 'realpolitik', the amoral politics of money and power. As long as Indonesia is a geo-strategically important nation, it will not be in any government's 'interests' to do anything for the Papuans. However, our God is a God 'who pleads the cause of his people' and acts! (See Isaiah 51:21-23; Proverbs 22:22-23; and Lamentations 3:55-58).

Selpius Bobii is the General Chairperson of Front Pepera (The United Front for the Struggle of the People of Papua). He is a political prisoner, one of the 'Jayapura Five' arrested in the violent military crackdown on the Third Papuan People's Congress in October 2011 (see RLPB 131, 26 Oct 2011). According to Bobii, 'The main means of annihilation are overt and covert military operations carried out by the Republic of Indonesia.' The extreme ethnic and religious hatred that many Javanese Muslim soldiers have for tribal Melanesian Christians fuels the most appalling human rights abuses. On the Internet, there is video of Indonesian soldiers torturing and brutally killing Papuans they abuse as 'kaffir' (infidels). Furthermore, the introduction of strong alcohol, worm-infested pork , AIDS-infected prostitutes and compulsory 'family planning' are all hastening the decline of the dispirited, indigenous population. On top of all this, Indonesia's policy of transmigration (encouraging Javanese Muslims to settle in the Christian regions of eastern Indonesia) ensures the indigenous Papuans' demographic demise. As Bobii notes, researchers at both Yale University, USA, and Sydney University, Australia, have concluded that what is happening in Papua is genocide. [For more on Papua see the RLM archive, label 'Papua'. Recommended: YALE report, and SYDNEY report)]

On 21 February 2013, after Indonesia refused to heed community appeals and stop building military outposts on a sacred burial site, Papua independence guerrilla fighters took up arms and resisted. Eight Indonesian Special Forces (Kopassus) soldiers and four non-Papuan civilians were killed in the clash. Thousands of Indonesian security forces subsequently flooded in to 'sweep' the communities around Puncak Jaya in the western central highlands. By 26 February at least 18 houses and five GIDI churches [Evangelical Church of Indonesia], two schools and a library in Tingginambut had been razed by the combined police and military forces. Thousands of Papuan civilians have fled into the bush. Evidence is emerging of massacres. Dozens of Papuan civilians are reported to have been plucked from their homes, schools, gardens and churches to be raped, tortured, mutilated, dismembered and decapitated. Despite photographic evidence, the Indonesian government is dismissing the reports of killings and disappearances as 'rumours' and propaganda. Yet according to credible reports (27 May), at least 41 Papuan civilians are dead (18 confirmed) with some 30 missing. Six of the dead were village chiefs and social leaders (including at least one pastor) who had been invited to attend the 9 April inauguration of new Papua Governor Lukas Enembe in Jayapura. They were intercepted, tortured and killed while returning home.

Oxford-based exile and activist, Benny Wenda, laments international ignorance. 'For the last 50 years we have struggled for freedom but nobody knows that West Papua is a prison, that we are slaves to the Indonesian military and that at least 500,000 men and women have been killed in a genocide,' he told the Daily Telegraph (12 June 2013) (Article includes video interview with Wenda.) Papuan Church leaders are deeply concerned about the escalating state violence.


* the Holy Spirit of God will revive and keep the Papuan Church from losing faith; may they call out to 'God who pleads the cause of his people' (from Isaiah 51:22 ESV). 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.' (Lamentations 3:24 ESV)

* the King of kings -- who sees all, hears all and knows all -- will take up the cause of his people and bring justice, liberty and peace to Papua. (See Isaiah 59:14-19.)

* the Lord of Hosts will intervene against those who have cruel intent; by frustrating their schemes (Psalm 141:10; 146:9) and by visiting them with transforming amazing grace (Galatians 1:23).


Mission Aviation Fellowship opened up the central highlands of former Dutch New Guinea (later Irian Jaya / Papua) to pioneering missionaries in the 1950s. Since the 1960s, Indonesia has invaded, occupied, annexed, Islamised, militarised and colonised the region. Today the predominantly Christian indigenous Melanesians are a suffering and dying people desperately needing God's intervention to prevent genocide. In the latest military operation, thousands of Indonesian forces have been 'sweeping' Pancuk Jaya in the western central highlands, razing homes, schools, churches and gardens while torturing, mutilating and killing Papuan civilians. As of 27 May, 41 people are reported dead and some 30 missing. Thousands have fled into the bush. The Indonesian government is dismissing the reports as 'rumour' and propaganda. Please pray for the gravely threatened Papuan Church.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)