In solidarity with West Papua
The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) Assembly has sought to highlight concerns about ongoing violence and oppression of the indigenous peoples of West Papua.
Responding to an appeal from the West Papua Council of Churches, UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer has written to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Mr Yohanes Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo to highlight concerns and to call for action.
“The Uniting Church in Australia has partnered in solidarity and service with Gereja Kristen Injili di Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua for more than 20 years,” said Dr Palmer.
“We stand in solidarity with the West Papua Council of Churches in seeking solutions that will lead to genuine and constructive dialogue, end the suffering of their people and bring about peace.”
In a pastoral letter shared over Easter, Church leaders in West Papua, including the Leader of GKI-TP, Rev Andrikus Mofu, outlined the ongoing suffering of their people.
In particular, the letter noted the following:
- the death and displacement of civilians as a result of conflict with security forces
- an increase in police and army deployment, leaving West Papua “surrounded from all directions, land, sea and air”
- systemic racism and ongoing racist acts and speech directed at indigenous West Papuans
- the contraction of democratic spaces and violation of civil and political rights, with security forces intercepting and arresting those engaged in peaceful protests
- deforestation and environmental crime, with an average deforestation rate of around 34,000 ha per year.
The West Papua Council of Churches called for several actions, which Dr Palmer affirmed in her letters to the Foreign Minister and Ambassador.
In particular, Dr Palmer called on the Australian Government to advocate to the United Nations (UN) for the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua to carry out an investigation of human rights violations and for the Indonesian Government to enter into dialogue with indigenous West Papuan leaders to seek peaceful solutions to end the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses.
Dr Palmer gave thanks for the many UCA members who actively support the voice and agency of West Papuans.
She encouraged all UCA members to pray and support the people of West Papua by advocating for similar outcomes.
“I urge Uniting Church members to continue to pray for our partner church GKI-TP, the West Papua Council of Churches and the people of West Papua, in solidarity as people of faith.”
“Further, I encourage those who can, to contact their local Federal member of Parliament asking them to support these requests, particularly in relation to a UN delegation to West Papua.”
Photo: Uniting Church partner the Indonesian Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP) celebrating the Gospel arriving in Papua outside the city of Manokwari, West Papua, Indonesia. (Credit: Rev Dr Ji Zhang, 2014)