Monday, September 9, 2019

RLPB 519. Papua (Indonesia): How Will the Story End?

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 519 | 10 Sep 2019
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by Elizabeth Kendal

Everyone loves a good mission story, especially those in which men and women with seemingly supernatural courage risk all in reaching out to warring tribes, head-hunters and cannibals. Martyrs follow martyrs until eventually there is a breakthrough and a culture of death is transformed into a culture of life. One of the most gripping missionary stories ever told is Peace Child, in which Canadian pioneer missionary Don Richardson shares how the treacherous and endlessly warring, cannibalistic Sari tribe of Dutch New Guinea came to put their faith in Jesus. Similarly, the story of pioneer missionaries Philip Masters (USA) and Stanley Dale (Australia), who gave their lives bringing life and light to the people of the highlands, is the stuff of legend.

Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in February 2015, Michael Bachelard commented: 'The people of Lolat in the high mountains of [Papua] had their first experience of a white man in 1968, and it was a culinary one. When Australian missionary Stanley Dale hiked over the ridge into the nearby Seng Valley, his would-be flock mistook him for a demon. They chased him and his partner, American Philip Masters, killed them with bows and arrows, and ate them... Now every soul in these villages is Christian and Dale is considered their martyr -- they say the gospel spread where his blood fell.' Unfortunately, while everyone loves a good mission story, not everyone cares about what happens next.

'High Tensions in Papua', M. Bachelard, SMH, 5 Feb 2015
Why there's unrest in the Indonesian province of Papua,
By James Massola, SMH, 6 Sept 2019

Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the pacific, the Papuans went from being killers to choristers in a matter of decades. But unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans were denied the right to self-determination. As Bachelard notes in his 2015 article, it was in the year after Dale's death that Papua -- then known as Dutch (or West) New Guinea -- officially became a province of Indonesia 'by means of a rorted process called the "Act of Free Choice" and was renamed Irian Jaya'. It has been all downhill since then.

The protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces are unprecedented. While Papua remains closed to outsiders, and the internet -- shut down supposedly to prevent the spread of 'hoax' news -- has only been partially and conditionally restored, we have seen Indonesian crackdowns before and so are not ignorant of how they unfold. Along with Army Commander Hadi Tjahjanto and national Police Chief General Tito Karnavian, Jakarta has sent in some 6000 extra police and soldiers. The Barisan Merah Putih [(BMP) Red and White Force] along with other militia (including Islamists) serve as proxies of the Indonesian special forces, Kopassus. According to sources, the BMP have been receiving significant tactical and logistical support from both Indonesian Brimob paramilitary police and from Kostrad Strategic Reserve.

Don't let West Papua become the next Timor-Leste
SBS News, 4 Sept 2019

Footage has emerged of the 21 August 'clashes' in Fak Fak. In the footage released by West Papua Media, pro-Indonesian BMP militia armed with metal rods and machetes are seen chasing Papuans through the streets of Fak Fak in the presence of Indonesian police. The pogrom was allegedly organised by Indonesian forces as retaliation for a pro-Independence rally held earlier that day in which Papua's banned Morning Star flag was raised and Papuans called for a referendum on independence. The footage includes harrowing images of Papuan teenager Manarson Ndrotndrot (15) after he had been attacked by BMP militia who sliced open his abdomen with a machete causing his intestines to spill out. Indonesian police and military officers are present, but none render assistance. Having survived the attack, Manarson Ndrotndrot was eventually taken to the general hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Sources reported on 5 September that the boy remains in hospital in a critical condition.

[Religious Liberty Monitoring has previously reported on the torture and disembowelment of a Papuan civilian; see RLM Aug 2010.]

While journalists and analysts seem willing to write about Indonesia's problems of soaring 'hyper-nationalism' and 'ubiquitous racism', nobody seems interested in talking about Islam and how the Islamic worldview fuels and legitimises imperialism, religious apartheid and hatred of the 'kaffir'/infidel. If nothing changes in West Papua and Papua, the result will eventually be at worst genocide, or at least the ethnic cleansing of Papua's resource-rich regions and the decimation of a Christian people. Papua will have gone from being a land of warring tribes, to a land of literate Christians, to a land of racial-religious hatred, jihad and genocide in the space of one century. Who will want to read that story?


* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt to bring light and life to the land of Papua and intervene, in wrath and mercy, to bring about a just resolution to the human rights crisis engulfing West Papua and Papua.

'Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' (Isaiah 40:10 ESV)

* redeem these trials to draw Papuans ever closer to himself; may Papuan men, women and children look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of their faith (from Hebrews 12:1,2) and 'see the salvation of the Lord' which he will surely work for those who trust him (from Exodus 14:13,14).

* turn the hearts of many nations towards the mostly Christian, Melanesian, indigenous Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries.


Triggered by a racist incident against Papuan students in East Java, the protests currently rocking Indonesia's West Papua and Papua Provinces represent Papuan frustration with decades of racial-religious apartheid and persecution at the hands of Javanese Muslim soldiers, militias and colonisers. Like their Melanesian brothers and sisters throughout the Pacific, the Papuans have embraced Jesus Christ. However, unlike their Melanesian brothers and sisters, the Papuans have been denied the right to self-determination. In 1969, one year after missionaries Stan Dale (Australia) and Phil Masters (USA) gave their lives bringing light and life to the people of the highlands, Papua was incorporated into Muslim Indonesia. For the mostly Christian Papuans, it has been all downhill since then. Please pray that God will intervene to bring a just resolution to the Papuan crisis.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).