40-day ‘fasting for West Papua’ protest ends soon – but still no action

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TNI helicopter
An Indonesian military helicopter in action at Sugapa, Intan Jaya. Image: Abeth You/Jubi

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

An appeal for a 40-day fast across the region by the Pacific Council of Churches in support of West Papua closes next week with no result in sight.

The secretary-general of the PCC, Rev James Bhagwan, and West Papua Church Council (WPCC) are still waiting for the Indonesian government to respond to their demands on stopping militarisation in West Papua.

Due to the government reluctance to respond to the call of church leaders about the prolonged conflict, indigenous Melanesians in West Papua will not celebrate their Christmas, – particularly in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak Ilaga regencies – for the third year in a row.

Yones Douw, head of the justice and peace department of the Papua Kemah Gospel Church, said there was “no hope for us at all”, reports Asia Pacific Report.

“Why is [the violence] increasing like this? Well, if you find a pastor who is speaking about the suffering of his congregation, he will be called a separatist. Anyone who speaks about human rights will be called as separatist, anyone who speaks about the welfare of Papuan people will be labelled separatist,” said Douw.

Pastor Nahor Maiseni, from Moni tribe in Intan Jaya said that the duty of pastors, priests, catechists and other religious workers was to not harm the congregation, reports Tabloid Jubi.

‘Their core duty was to spread the gospel and to look after congregation.

‘Worship, education paralysed’
“With the murder of Pastor Jeremia Zanambani and the conflict in Hitadipa, the members of the GKII Klasis Hitadipa congregation have experienced bad conditions. From the spiritual aspect, the congregation no longer performs worship as usual and educational activities are paralysed,” he said.

The report said shooting the priests and preachers in Intan Jaya was like “going against God”.

“Their daily role and activities (priests, pastors, and catechists) was to pray for the peace and safety of all God’s people on this earth regardless of class,” said Pastor Maiseni.

“Whether the TNI or the TPN-PB, or any group which intends to kill a pastor, pastor and catechist …  is like fighting God or fighting with God, not with humans,” said Maiseni.

TNI is the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Army) and TPN-PB represents Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat (West Papua National Liberation Army).

Prayers for peace
Benny Wenda, chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said that as well as being a special month of Christian prayer for West Papuans, December was also a “historical month” for West Papuans, especially December 1.

“All West Papuans, from Sorong to Samarai, across Melanesia and throughout the globe: I invite you to hold mass prayer meetings on December 1, 2020, to commemorate this historic day for our people,” he said in a statement.

“In the last few months we have suffered greatly. West Papuans are being systematically killed at the hands of the Indonesian military. Our religious leaders, like Pastor Yeremia Zanambani and Catholic Church worker Rufinus Tigau, have been tortured and killed.

“A 19-year-old woman in Sentani, Dimisi Balingga, was killed by Indonesian troops on November 4.

“West Papuan students are being arrested and brutalised just for holding a small demonstration. We are not safe under Indonesian rule,” said the statement.

Wenda, the London-based independence movement leader, said that the Special Autonomy status should end this year peacefully.

“We will not bow down to any offer from Jakarta short of a referendum on independence. We are not bound by any law imposed by Jakarta,” said the statement.

102 groups sign protest petition
Asia Pacific Report previously reported that 90 civil and church organisations had joined together to reject the extension of special autonomy.

Victor Yeimo
Victor Yeimo … 102 organisations have joined and signed the protest petition. Image: Suara Papua

Suara Papua reports that Victor Yeimo, international spokesperson of National Committee of West Papua, said 102 organisations had joined and signed the protest petition.

He said that during special autonomy status period many West Papuan had been killed, tortured, brutally oppressed, and physically threatened.

At the end of the press conference, Yeimo declared that West Papua was a non self-governing territory – “the last colony in the Pacific” – and rejected the second version of special autonomy.

The statement also reaffirmed the “right of peaceful and democratic self-determination for the people of West Papua to determine their political destiny”.

Reported by a postgraduate communication studies student at Auckland University of Technology.

The full list of demands is at Suara Papua

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