Papua: Racism, climate change and economic justice in the spotlight

The 56th meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs took place in Bali, Indonesia, on 24 – 28 February, discussing many of the most critical concerns of churches in the region and around the world.


The 56th meeting of the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches on International Affairs took place in Bali, Indonesia, on 24 – 28 February, discussing many of the most critical concerns of churches in the region and around the world.

“Following the ecumenical Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, our focus on the Asian region this year, has brought fresh perspectives to our work, including on issues of racial justice”, said Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. “We have also, I hope, brought the World Council of Churches’ work on international affairs closer to the churches of Indonesia through our visit and meeting here.”

The meeting followed the World Council of Churches Pilgrim Team Visit to the Java and Papua regions of Indonesia, where an ecumenical delegation met with local communities, church leaders, victims of human rights violations and local government representatives.

“We have survived thanks to the church only”, local community members told the ecumenical delegation during the visit to Papua, a region where access for international organisations or media has generally been severely restricted. The situation of the communities and churches in Papua has long been a concern also of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI).

“Many of human rights violations are based in a deeply rooted racism”, commission vice-moderator Emily Welty said in a debrief session on the Pilgrim Team Visit, adding that Papuans have often been considered as “less than humans”.

In a ‘spotlight session’ on racial justice, commission members agreed that racism is a social construct, and a denial of God’s plan according to which all people are created in God’s image. “But if you reduce someone to ‘less than human’, you can do anything to them”, said Dr Evelyn L. Parker during a panel discussion in which racial justice challenges in different regions of the world were explored.

Climate change is increasingly recognised as one of main global risks threatening the future. Statistics of increased pollution and deforestation, limiting nature’s capacity to absorb carbon emissions, were explored in a ‘spotlight session’ on environmental and economic justice. “By 2050 there will be more plastic waste in the oceans than fish, and oceans are warming up by 40% faster than expected”, noted Melisande Schifter, asking churches to advocate for high impact activities to address climate change.

Statistics around the world show economic growth in majority of countries, but the increase in production and consumption “does not show the widening inequalities taking place in the world”, commission member and economist Lukasz Nazarko said during the spotlight session. “Churches have much more to say than scientists or economists on greed and selfishness, the main drivers of economic injustice in the world”.

During the meeting, the commission’s initiatives and activities for the period 2019 – 2021 were planned, and new initiatives for World Council of Churches Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace were discussed.

The WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs advises World Council of Churches leadership on critical situations in the world and on opportunities to support initiatives for peacemaking and justice, helping churches to shape a coherent ecumenical response to these challenges.

 


Every day ships with hundreds of migrants from whole Indonesia reach the Jayapura harbour in West Papua. Photo: Marion Unger/WCC

Source: World Council of Churches