Papua does not come to rest

The riots caused fires and destruction. Photo: zVg GKI

The current violence at rallies is the most serious since 1998. In the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua on the island of New Guinea, the "Papuan conflict" has been smoldering since 1969, when the region was annexed to Indonesia after a disputed vote. The seriousness of the current dispute is hardly reflected in the Swiss media. The statements of the ICP (International Coalition for West Papua) and other local organizations reached Mission 21 through its partner church GKI, one of the largest churches in Papua. 

According to their report, more than 30 people have died since mid-August, some of them as a result of fires. Around 70 people have been injured and more than 150 houses have been destroyed, including four government buildings. The unrest was apparently triggered by an attack by Indonesian militants on an indigenous Papuan student dormitory on August 17, Indonesia's Independence Day. Indigenous Papuans are repeatedly the target of racist attacks and this time, too, they reacted with anti-racist rallies. On the other hand, there were also violent attacks against immigrant Indonesians. The police and army are present with several thousand troops. They have been accused of serious human rights violations for years.

Human Rights Watch Calls for UN Investigation

The situation in the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua is also being addressed by human rights organizations Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International. HRW confirms that over 30 people have been victims of the conflicts and that several thousand people have been relocated or displaced. HRW demands that the UN human rights agency be given full access to Papua province to investigate the situation.

The currently latest report comes from the British BBC. Their detailed research from October 11 shows how the Indonesian company InsightID spreads pro-Indonesian fake news by infiltrating social media with so-called bots (automated posts), apparently with the aim of distorting the international perception of the conflict.

Protestant church gives hope to people

An important support for the indigenous Papuans is the Evangelical Reformed Church in Papua, GKI. The GKI in Papua has almost one million members and is one of the largest churches in the Indonesian part of the island. Many Papuans have no trust in the politicians, the military, the police or the Indonesian constitutional state.

The church enjoys a high reputation. Through its appearance, its social programs and its commitment to justice and against violence, the church gives people support, hope and protection. Mission 21 supports the educational work of the CCI in Papua and calls for solidarity with the victims of the current conflicts in Papua.

Text: Christoph Rácz, Photo: GKI

► Article on the conflict in the NZZ of September 24, 2019

► Reports from Papua by the icp organization (pdf)

► Protestant Reformed Church in Papua (GKI)

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