Australian Church seeks mediation in Papua

Australian Church seeks mediation in Papua

UCANews, 23 September 2010


The Uniting Church in Western Australia will call on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to encourage the Indonesian Government to hold a national dialogue with indigenous Papuans.

“A mediated dialogue by an independent third party can ensure fairness and secure Papua’s future,” said Synod Moderator Reverend Ken Williams.

Agenda items include the marginalization of Papuans and violence against them, militarization of provinces and the Papuans’ desire for self-regulation.

“The Papuans feel isolated and vulnerable,” said John Barr, Associate Director of UnitingWorld Asia. UnitingWorld works with the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua (GKI-TP).

The GKI-TP noted that after 10 years under the Special Autonomy Law, indigenous Papuans remain marginalized. The law was passed by the Indonesian government following growing separatist sentiments.

Following this appeal, the Joint Presbytery and Synod meeting passed the resolution this weekend in Perth. This was the first action made by an Australian church since Papuans rejected the Special Autonomy Law in a massive demonstration last August.

This law “failed to fulfill Papuans’ aspirations,” Barr said, quoting church leaders. “They want to live in peace, but they don’t have land ownership, economic control and the proper education.”

The Uniting Church has cooperated with the GKI-TP through various development projects. They agreed to continue working jointly on human rights advocacy, peace building, emergency relief, health services and economic development.

Meanwhile, Papuans demonstrated today in front of the US embassy and the Indonesian consulate in Perth coinciding with a US congressional hearing entitled Crimes Against Humanity: When Will Indonesia’s Military Be Held Accountable for Deliberate and Systematic Abuses in West Papua?

The GKI-TP wrote US President Barack Obama to “support a Dialogue between Papua and Jakarta and ensure the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman, Chairmain of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua claimed that the Special Autonomy law failed. “It increases the suffering of indigenous Papuans in their ancestral land,” he stated.

In 1969, Indonesia took over western Papua based on the “Act of Free Choice,” a referendum of 1,000 Papuan leaders.

Since then, Australia has recognized Indonesian rights to exercise authority in Papua, where government-sponsored migration led to population decline. Most Papuans remain Christians while the rest of the country is predominantly Muslim.

The General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches urged all members to “support Papuans in their struggle for justice and peace.”

Australian investments in Papua include the giant Freeport mine, the world’s largest gold mine and third largest copper mine. Environmentalists and Papuans have protested against Freeport’s operations.