West Papua: 45 Years of Indonesian Rule

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 476 | Thu 01 May 2008

When Indonesia declared its independence from Holland in 1949, the
Dutch insisted that West Papua (West or Dutch New Guinea) not be
considered part of Indonesia as the Papuans were Melanesian and
predominantly Christian, while the Indonesians were Malay and Asian
and predominantly Muslim. So the Dutch remained in the hotly
contested territory, preparing the people for independence. The
Dutch era was marked by openness and the Papuans, who were
evangelised mostly by Australian and American pioneer missionaries
courtesy Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) USA, turned from
shamanism, headhunting, cannibalism and internecine tribal war to

In 1961 a West Papuan Council was elected, a flag was designed and
a national anthem composed. Indonesia was furious and responded
with an invasion. The United Nations intervened to prevent war. But
these were also Cold War days. The Soviets had brokered an arms
deal with Indonesia and so America, determined to secure geo-
strategic Indonesia in the Western sphere of influence, trumped the
Soviets by brokering a comparable arms deal and secretly offering
to help Indonesia secure control of West Papua. (Note: The giant US-
owned corporation, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., had
discovered gold in West Papua in 1960.) In New York in August 1962,
the US, on behalf of Indonesia, brokered an agreement with the
Netherlands by which the territory's administration would be
transferred to a UN temporary authority (UNTEA) until 1 May 1963.
Control of West Papua would then be handed over to Indonesia on the
understanding that a plebiscite would be held before the end of
1969 allowing the Papuans to vote for or against separation from
Indonesia. Thus the Indonesians had six years to win the hearts and
minds of the Papuans.

On 1 May 1963, upon assuming administrative control of West Papua,
Indonesia disbanded the elected West Papuan Council, burned West
Papuan flags and banned the West Papuan national anthem. An era of
colonisation, violent repression, exploitation, murder, racism and
human rights abuses (including torture) at the hands of the corrupt
Indonesian military (TNI) had begun. The plebiscite was totally
rigged and West Papua (Irian Jaya) was formally annexed by
Indonesia on 17 September 1969. (Note: Indonesia sold Freeport the
rights to mine in West Papua in 1967 -- two years before

The intensity of repression and the rate of colonisation have
escalated dramatically since Indonesia lost control of East Timor
in 1999. Furthermore, the Islamic revival of the past two decades
has added a religious dimension to the Papuans' plight, with
Islamists regarding West Papua as dar-al-Islam (house of Islam) and
pursuing its full Islamisation. The Laskar Jihad has been set up in
West Papua since 2000 and when the jihad in the Moluccas ended, the
out-of-work jihadists flooded into West Papua.

The Papuans will soon be a minority in their own land. They are
facing genocide due to TNI abuses, Indonesian government policies
and international commercial interests. The Papuans have been
sacrificed to genocide for the sake of geopolitics, 'peace' and
profits. The Church must be their voice.


* God to bless greatly all West Papuan pastors and Christian
leaders with words of faith, grace and wisdom as they stand
before their congregations, in the midst of their communities, in
the presence of their persecutors and in the halls of their
colonial masters.

* all the innocent Papuans, including many Christians and even
some pastors, who are suffering in Indonesian prisons, or who
bear the hardships and wounds of TNI brutality. May the Holy
Spirit draw each one closer to God, and may they know justice.

* God to awaken the conscience of the Church and the world to the
plight of the West Papuans.

'Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains
of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed
free and break every yoke? . . . and not to turn away from your own
flesh and blood?' (From Isaiah 58:6-8 NIV)




The first of May 2008 is the 45th anniversary of Indonesia assuming
administrative control of West Papua. Before 1 May 1963, West Papua
was under Dutch control and there was openness, human rights,
missions and mass conversions from shamanism to Christ, and from
tribal conflict to harmony. Whilst the Dutch wanted West Papua to
have independence, America supported Indonesian claims for economic
gain and Cold War political expediency. Ever since 1 May 1963, the
Papuans have been suffering violent repression, exploitation,
murder, dispossession, starvation, torture and other human rights
abuses at the hands of the corrupt Indonesian military. Javanese
Muslim colonisation, Islamisation and military repression have
escalated dramatically since 1999. The West Papuans are now facing
genocide. The Church must be their voice. Please pray for God's

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RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
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Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.