The World Council of Churches Executive Committee issued a statement on 23 May expressing concern and solidarity for the people of West Papua who are facing violence and human rights violations.
In February of 2019, 23 members of an ecumenical Pilgrim Team visited four separate locations in West Papua in what is believed to be the first time that such a large and diverse international delegation has visited the territory since its integration into Indonesia in 1969. Observations by the Pilgrim Team indicate persistently high levels of violence and human rights violations, including recently in the Nduga Regency resulting in the displacement of many people from remote communities in this Highlands Region.
Amos 5: 24 (NRSV)
The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 22-28 May 2019, recalls the many initiatives and expressions of concern about the situation in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and Papua Barat (together referred to herein as “West Papua” or “Tanah Papua”) by national, regional and international ecumenical and church-related organizations over many years. Since the joint World Council of Churches (WCC)/Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) delegation visit to Indonesia (including West Papua) in 1999, the WCC has repeatedly lifted up issues related to human rights, environmental degradation, and economic justice in West Papua, particularly from the perspective of the Indigenous Papuan people. The same concerns were raised through the Living Letters team visit to Indonesia in July 2008, and the WCC General Secretary’s visit to West Papua in June 2012, and underlined in WCC governing body statements (including by the executive committee in February 2012, and by the central committee in June 2016).
The WCC central committee called in June 2016 for a solidarity visit to West Papua by an international ecumenical delegation, to demonstrate the ecumenical movement’s accompaniment of the churches in the region, to hear the voices of the victims of violence and human rights violations, and to pursue the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this context. The executive committee accordingly welcomes the fact that in February this year 23 members of an ecumenical Pilgrim Team Visit (PTV) to Indonesia visited four separate locations in West Papua (Jayapura, Wamena, Merauke and Manokwari), in what is believed to be the first time that such a large and diverse international delegation has visited the territory since its integration into Indonesia in 1969.
The WCC executive committee expresses its sincere appreciation to the Government of Indonesia for enabling the PTV members unfettered access to West Papua, as a positive sign of increased openness by the government to such visits to the territory.
Nevertheless, we are alarmed that the observations by the PTV members in West Papua indicate persistently high levels of violence and human rights violations, including recently in the Nduga Regency resulting in the displacement of many people from remote communities in this Highlands area. PTV members remarked on the very heavy military-security approach of the Indonesian authorities in the region, and its consequences in terms of conflict and associated human rights violations.
We are also gravely concerned by reports of the accelerating deforestation and environmental degradation in West Papua, especially in light of the importance that these forest areas have for Indigenous Papuan people’s traditional livelihoods and culture, and their global significance with regard to the challenges of climate change and extinction of species.
The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in West Papua, and the disproportionate impact of the conflict and human rights situation in the territory on women and girls, are matters warranting further specific attention by the ecumenical movement and national and provincial authorities.
Overall, reports received and observations made by the PTV members indicate that the present situation in West Papua exhibits clear characteristics of systemic marginalization – including through transmigration and demographic shifts – and discrimination against the Indigenous Papuan population, and of their exclusion from the development process currently taking place in their own territory, which is in any event unsustainable and destructive both of the environment and traditional livelihoods.
It is also apparent from the testimonies and reports received by PTV members in West Papua that the 2001 Special Autonomy Law for West Papua has not been fully or consistently implemented by the Government of Indonesia, and has failed to reverse the process of marginalization and exclusion of Indigenous Papuans in their own land, or to fulfil their aspirations with regard to the realization of their human right to self-determination.
The executive committee notes that the PTV received a joint pastoral appeal from the heads of four churches in West Papua – the Synod of the Christian Evangelical Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), the Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua, the Synod of KINGMI Church in Tanah Papua, and the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia – calling inter alia for a “dignified and peaceful dialogue between the government of the Republic of Indonesia and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)” in order to resolve the political issues of the territory.
The executive committee of the World Council of Churches:
Expresses its thanks and appreciation to the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), the Christian Evangelical Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) and Roman Catholic partners Franciscans International and Vivat International for their collaboration and participation in the Pilgrim Team Visit to Indonesia, including West Papua, in February 2019;
Urges the Government of Indonesia immediately to open access to the Nduga Regency for national and international humanitarian organisations to provide food and health services for affected Indigenous communities and IDPs in the neighbouring regencies;
Calls on the Government of Indonesia to provide full and unimpeded access to West Papua, including to the Nduga Regency, by international human rights organizations, journalists and others;
Requests the Government of Indonesia to ensure that development undertaken in West Papua, and throughout Indonesia, respects commitments to environmental sustainability and the human rights and dignity of Indigenous and local communities, and promotes gender justice and equality;
Supports the joint appeal of the four church leaders in West Papua for a comprehensive political dialogue between the Government of Indonesia and the ULMWP;
Calls on President Joko Widodo to fulfil his commitments to engage in comprehensive dialogue, and to ensure a just resolution of the Papuan people’s concerns;
Commends all church-based and civil society efforts to advocate for justice and peace in West Papua based on humanitarian and human rights principles;
Invites all WCC member churches to pray and act in support of the witness of the churches in West Papua – and that of PGI, PCC and CCA – for justice and peace in the region.