Tuesday, May 11, 2021

RLPB 597. Papua (Indonesia): 'Satan's Forces' Enter a Darkened Papua.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 597 | Wed 12 May 2021
RLPB is published weekly to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer.

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by Elizabeth Kendal

On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a senior Indonesian intelligence official in what analysts suspect was a planned assassination [see RLPB 595 (27 April)]. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and, on 29 April, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD announced that Papuan armed criminal groups (Kelompok Kriminal Bersenjata: KKB) would now be categorised as 'terrorists' in line with Counterterrorism Law No. 8/2018 which grants the security forces expanded powers.

Papuan Governor Lukas Enembe immediately urged the government to reconsider, warning that the 'terrorist' designation could bring the Papuans great harm. Numerous human rights organisations and advocates - including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) - similarly denounced the move, concerned that the terrorist designation could trigger racist violence against Papuans outside of Papua. It could be used to justify mass, gross human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and killings, much of it compounded by the extreme racial-religious hatred so many Javanese Muslims (especially those in the Indonesian military) have for their ethnicly Melanesian, predominantly Christian compatriots. On Sunday 2 May Indonesian media reported that the Indonesian military (TNI) had deployed its 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion to Papua. Video footage has been released of the battle-hardened battalion - which earned its nickname 'Satan's forces' (pasukan setan) in East Timor where it came to be known for its brutal methods - performing military drills in Papua on 1 May.

'Satan's Forces' perform military drills in Papua, 1 May 2021.

On 4 May Papuan leader-in-exile Benny Wenda issued a statement in which he warned: 'Huge Indonesian military operations, some of the largest in years, are imminent in West Papua. The internet is being cut off, hundreds more troops are being deployed, and we are receiving reports that West Papuan civilians are fleeing from their villages in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya, and Nduga regencies ... This looks like it will be the biggest military operation in West Papua since the late 1970s'. Wenda warned that, along with Satan's Forces, the Jala Mangkara Detachment (Denjaka), elite troops of the Indonesian Navy, are also being deployed for what he insists is 'state terrorism'. On 6 May Reuters confirmed that internet services have been disrupted in the provincial capital of Jayapura and nearby Sentani (40km to the west) since 30 April. Exiled Indonesian rights activist, Victoria Koman, said she had received reports that mobile and internet services in Puncak have also been disrupted. Papua has gone dark!

As tensions soared, Andreas Harsono, a researcher with HRW's Indonesia office, urged the Indonesian government to put the threat posed by Papuan KKB into perspective: 'According to Indonesian military estimates, they only have (around) 200 weapons ... This is going to affect these indigenous people so much.' Which brings us to the truth! The real goal of this totally disproportionate military offensive is not security! The real goal is not to neutralise an existential terrorist threat, for there isn't one! On the contrary, the real goal of state terror is always political! The real goal is to eliminate resistance to Indonesian rule by massively inflating the cost. The real goal is to crush spiritually and intimidate into silence all indigenous, predominantly Christian Papuans who have ever so much as dreamt of Papuan freedom!

Arrested: Victor Yeimo in handcuffs, 9 May 2021

On Sunday 9 May Indonesian police arrested Victor Yeimo (38, one of the most prominent leaders inside Papua) in Papua's provincial capital, Jayapura. The Indonesian government is accusing Yeimo of treason, which, as UK-based Wenda explains, is ridiculous. 'He is accused of "masterminding" the 2019 West Papua Uprising, which was started by Indonesian racism and violence [RLM (27 Aug 2019)] and ended in a bloodbath caused by Indonesian troops' [RLPB 521 (24 Sept 2019)]. But as People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker, Bambang Soesatyo, so shamelessly explained at the outset, the real goal is to 'destroy them first' and 'discuss human rights matters later'. 

For an expanded version of this RLPB, see Religious Liberty Monitoring:
Papua (Indonesia): This is What State Terror Looks Like,
By Elizabeth Kendal, 12 May 2021.


* consider the labours of his faithful servants and the blood that was spilt while planting the seed of the Gospel in Papua; Lord in your mercy, intervene to bring about a just resolution to the humanitarian and human rights crisis engulfing the Papuan Provinces.

'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)

* protect those faithful labourers who continue to serve the Lord and his Church in the Papuan Provinces today; we especially pray for Indonesian and ex-patriate Christian missionaries who may well be especially vulnerable at this time. Father, protect them from those misunderstandings that tend to arise in the 'fog of war'; protect them as well from wartime lies and propaganda mischievously disseminated to cause division and inflict harm. Lord in your mercy, pour out an abundance of clarity, discernment, and grace! We pray especially for the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), whose planes and pilots will be greatly imperilled yet greatly needed: Lord in your mercy, please protect them.

* 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 indigenous, ethnic Melanesian, predominantly Christian Papuans, who are in many cases their co-religionists and in some cases the legacy of their own missionaries. Lord in your mercy, shatter the silence that covers Papua like a shroud and shields evil-doers from accountability. God of justice and righteousness, we ask that Jakarta would be forced to change its ways, for the sake of your precious Papuan Church.

Prayer points developed from:
RLPB 519, How Will the Story End? (10 Sep 2019).


On 25 April armed rebels in Papua's Puncak Regency shot and killed a leading Indonesian Intelligence official. Indonesian President Joko Widodo immediately called for retaliation and had Papuan armed criminal groups (KKB) designated 'terrorists', a label used to justify extreme measures. Among the hundreds of extra troops being deployed to Papua, is the 400-strong elite Infantry 315/Garuda Battalion which earned its nickname 'Satan's Forces' while fighting in East Timor. Yet according to the Indonesian military's own estimate, Papuan KKB only possess around 200 firearms. Clearly, eliminating 'terrorists' is not the main goal. Internet and telecommunication services have been disrupted and the region's indigenous, predominately Christian Papuans are fleeing into the jungle and bracing yet again for a new wave of state terror designed to silence dissent and crush hope. 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