Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Indonesia's Papuan Provinces: Looming Nationalist Jihad

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 523 | 09 Oct 2019
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by Elizabeth Kendal

BACKGROUND: The current crisis engulfing the Papuans began on 15-17 August with a racist incident in Surabaya, East Java. Sick of racial-religious hatred and persecution, Papuans protested across Indonesia [RLPB 517 (28 Aug)]. In response, the Indonesian government deployed thousands of extra troops, mostly Javanese Muslims, to the mainly Melanesian Christian Papuan provinces [RLPB 519 (10 Sep)]. Since then, violence has escalated, with the worst violence seen for years occurring in Wamena on Monday 23 September [RLPB 521 (25 Sep)]. Most of the 33 people who died in the Wamena riots were Muslim migrants. Local native Papuans risked their lives saving non-natives from the marauding highlanders they described as 'outsiders', who were 'not recognised'. The question of who instigated the violence remains unanswered. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the Indonesian military may have provoked the violence with the aim of triggering a conflict, thereby establishing a pretext for a full-scale military crackdown [Update on Papua RLPB 522 (2 Oct)].

UPDATE: Of the 33 fatalities in Wamena on 23 September, only 4 were native Papuan. The settlers, who died at the hands of the invading Papuan highlanders, died either in fires or from bladed weapons. Meanwhile, locals have provided the names of 65 native Papuans treated for bullet wounds, having been shot by Indonesian security personnel. Numerous groups, including Human Rights Watch, are calling for a full and independent investigation into the Wamena riots and for independent monitors to be admitted. Meanwhile, as expected, several Java-based jihadist groups are calling for jihad in the Papuan provinces.


recruiting for Papua jihad

Islam Jihad Front (FJI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have both begun raising funds and enlisting recruits for jihad in the Papuan provinces. A banner at an FJI recruitment post reads: 'Islamic Jihad Front opens registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send Islamic holy war fighters/militias [jihad qital] to Wamena, Papua, to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were [being] slaughtered by the warring infidels [kafir harby] and to maintain the integrity of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] from the OPM [Organisasi Papua Merdeka / Free Papua Movement] separatist hordes.'

According to Indonesian human rights researcher, Andreas Harsono (7 Oct), several 'aggressive', Islamist groups already have a foothold in the Papuan provinces. 'We have one in Sorong; we are also seeing Laskar Jihad, a militant Muslim group, setting up a base in Keerom; also in Wamena ...' Previously, on 5 September, Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu informed members of the House of Representatives, 'There is a group affiliated with the Islamic State [operating] in Papua that has called for a jihad there.' National Police spokesman Brig.-Gen. Dedi Prasetyo confirmed Ryamizard's statement and identified the IS-affiliated group as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) -- the group believed to be responsible for a string of terror attacks in and around Surabya, including suicide-bombings at three churches on Sunday 13 May 2018.

Critically, on 26 September, the Indonesian parliament quietly passed a controversial law on Management of National Resources (PSDN) for National Defence. Chapter 4, Article 27 makes it legal for the Indonesian military to mobilise civilian forces for national defence. Consequently, the Papua jihad will be fought under the banner of Indonesian unity and nationalism with Islamic jihadist and merah putih (red and white, ultra-nationalist) militias fighting ostensibly -- and more importantly, legally -- to 'maintain the integrity of the NKRI' (the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia). No longer proxies, the militias -- which will be known as 'Reserve Components' and 'Supporting Components' -- will now fight alongside and in open co-operation with the Indonesian military. This will all be totally legal as long as the fight is against 'separatists' -- as distinct from predominantly Christian (infidel/kafir) indigenous Papuans ('monkeys'). [For more detail see Indonesia: Mobilizing  Civilian Militias for National Defense, Religious Liberty Monitoring (9 Oct 2019).]  Of course, defending the unity of Indonesia is a very Islamic cause, for as far as Islam is concerned, all Indonesia -- including the Papuan provinces -- is part of the dar al-Islam (House of Islam). As one activist ominously warns, 'The possibility that all this could turn into a widespread, government-supported, ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.'


* pour out an abundance of grace, courage and wisdom on all Indonesian, especially Papuan, Christian leaders -- those in civic administration and those in the Church; may they raise a prophetic voice against injustice, greed and violence; may they lead God's people wisely and may all efforts at peacemaking be blessed.

* shield, sustain and preserve his faithful Church in the Papuan provinces; may humanitarian aid be delivered; may international observers be admitted; may security be restored and may faith and freedom be respected.

* intervene for his betrayed and abandoned people, in what is first and foremost a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12) of David and Goliath proportions.

'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! ... Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Excerpts, Psalm 20 ESV, a Psalm of David, and a prayer for the Papuan provinces)


Several Java-based Islamic organisations -- including the Islam Jihad Front and Islamic Defenders Front -- are openly recruiting fighters for a jihad in Indonesia's Papuan provinces. Several other groups -- including Laskar Jihad and the Islamic-State affiliate Jamaah Ansharut Daulah -- already have bases in the region. On 26 September the Indonesian parliament passed a controversial law that gives the military permission to mobilise civilian forces for national defence. Consequently, instead of functioning as proxies of the Indonesian military, Islamic jihadi and merah putih (red and white, ultra-nationalist) militias will now be able to fight openly and legally in co-operation with the Indonesian military to defend the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia from 'separatists', by which they mean the ethnic Melanesian and mostly Christian indigenous Papuans. Please pray.


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).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com