RLPB 426. Papua (eastern Indonesia): a desperate and risky plea
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 426 | Wed 04 Oct 2017
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
IDOP 2017: Sunday 5 or 12 November.
Ideally, intercessory prayer for the persecuted Church should be an integral part of every church’s weekly worship. Yet still today, many believers (particularly in the West) have scant awareness of the problem of persecution. This is mostly because they get their news from mainstream media which neither understands nor has much interest in the persecution of Christians.
International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church provides churches and believers around the world with an opportunity to join together in prayer for the persecuted. Churches will observe IDOP on either Sunday 5 or 12 November, while small groups and prayer groups will meet during the week. For some this will be eye-opening and the start of something new. For others it will be an opportunity to re-commit to an aspect of worship that, while challenging, is also life-changing.
IDOP is a movement for our times; for in these days of escalating persecution amidst unprecedented openness and connectedness, God is doing something quite new: knitting together an increasingly global Church. This is exciting and totally unprecedented in the history of the Church.
With one month to go, now is the time to start preparing for IDOP.
PAPUA (EASTERN INDONESIA): A DESPERATE AND RISKY PLEA
The indigenous peoples of Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) — the eastern-most province of Indonesia — are ethnically Melanesian and overwhelmingly Christian. Indonesia invaded the former Dutch colony in 1962. Then in 1969, the UN, the UK and the USA rubber stamped the sham ‘Act of Free Choice’ (known by the indigenous Papuans as the ‘Act of No Choice’!) which transferred sovereignty of resource-rich ‘West Irian’ to Indonesia. Today, after decades of mass migration of Javanese Muslims, Papua has been thoroughly ‘Javanised’ and Islamised. It has also been thoroughly militarised. What is more, because Indonesian security forces are now heavily invested in the region, they have an economic interest in remaining there. Gross and systematic human rights abuses are endemic, including arbitrary arrest, torture, rape, and the trafficking of Papuan children who are taken to Java for forced Islamisation. The province is closed to reporters and indigenous Papuans are banned from talking to outsiders.
On Tuesday 26 September exiled Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda presented a petition to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation in New York, where the UN General Assembly was in session. The petition — said to contain some 1.8 million signatures of West Papuans in Indonesia — demands an internationally supervised free vote on independence, along with the appointment of a UN representative to investigate reports of human rights abuses by the Indonesian security forces. Defying Jakarta’s ban, Papuans conducted the petition in secret, signing at great personal risk, smuggling it throughout the region and ultimately out of the country. According to Benny Wenda, 57 people were arrested and a further 54 tortured between April and June as the petition was being circulated.
As a prelude to the petition’s arrival, Prime Ministers Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands and Charlot Salwai of Vanuatu addressed the UN General Assembly on 24 September. They accused the UN of ‘turning a deaf ear’ to human rights abuses in Papua, called for an official investigation and insisted the UN support the Papuans’ legal right to self-determination.
According to Benny Wenda, the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation officially acknowledged acceptance and receipt of the petition. Not only does the Indonesian government reject this, it is disputing the veracity of the petition, deeming it a ‘hoax’ and a ‘political stunt’. Meanwhile the committee’s chair, Rafael Ramirez (Venezuela), claims not to have received the petition at all. Rejecting reports of the petition as fake news, Ramirez clarified: ‘West Papua is not on the agenda … Indonesia is a very good friend of ours.’ West Papua specialist from the University of Sydney, Dr Jason MacLeod, has examined the petition and believes it is both genuine and a fair and accurate representation of the will of the indigenous Papuans ‘who genuinely feel that they are facing a slow- motion genocide’.
Of course the Indonesian government and Indonesian military will never willingly relinquish control of resource-rich Papua. Indeed, the Indonesian military will be furious. The Indonesian government is currently building the Trans-Papua Highway so it can open up the Central Highlands to ‘development’. Unless they get strong international support, the indigenous Melanesian Christians of Papua could see their situation get a lot worse yet.
PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:
* draw all Papuans to prayer; may they put their faith in God — not in ‘man’ and not in ‘the world’. And may the living God, who hears and answers prayer, intervene on their behalf. ‘Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think …’ (from Ephesians 3:20 ESV)
* fill Papuan Church and community leaders with wisdom and understanding so they will lead the people well in line with the will and purposes of the Lord.
* restrain evil and angry hands bent on retaliation; may he protect and preserve his precious people. Lord have mercy!
Pray for the Church in Papua, using Psalm 27
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
A DESPERATE AND RISKY PLEA FROM PAPUA (EASTERN INDONESIA)
The indigenous Papuans are ethnically Melanesian and overwhelmingly Christian. Indonesia invaded in 1962 and in 1969 the UN transferred sovereignty to Indonesia. Papua has since been ‘Javanised’, Islamised and thoroughly militarised. Papuans suffer from gross and systematic human rights abuses; indeed, they are facing ‘a slow-motion genocide’. On 26 September exiled Papuan independence leader, Benny Wenda, presented a petition to the United Nations in New York. Containing some 1.8 million Papuan signatures, the petition appealing for self-determination had been conducted in secret over several months and smuggled out of Indonesia. While Wenda insists the UN acknowledged receipt of the petition, Jakarta rejects this and has deemed the petition a ‘hoax’. Meanwhile, the chair of the relevant UN committee denies ever receiving it. Please pray for the Church in Papua.
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).