Regaining Humanness. The Papuan struggle for human dignity


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An analysis of the struggle of the Papuans in West Papua (Western New Guinea) , Indonesia to reclaim the right to be considered fully human, in a context of serious violations of human rights, including the right to life.
Papuans use metaphors of the Christian faith to redefine their situation and to engage in a non-violent struggle against Indonesian rule, and the impunity enjoyed by the Indonesian security forces .

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  • The focus of my paper is on the ways Papuans of Western New Guinea claim the right to be human in a context where the right to their own identity is practically denied to them. The Western half of New Guinea is part of the Republic of Indonesia since May 1963.
  • In my presentation I will first give the historical background. I will then discuss in greater detail the various stages in which Papuans relate to their human rights, in a traditional context, in relation to the activities of Christian mission, to the increasing influence of Dutch colonial penetration and the situation after the Indonesian takeover in 1963. I will discuss the response of the Papuans and the Papuan church. I will end my presentation with a conclusion.
  • The Indonesian controlled Western part of the island of New Guinea consists of two provinces: Papua and West-Papua. I worked in Jayapura, the provincial capital, as a lecturer at the Theological College of the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua Land from 1995 to 2002. This was a revolutionary period, as after President Suharto stepped down from power in 1998 Papuans openly expressed their wish to be independent. The two years after 1998 were a kind of Papuan spring.
  • Part of the Dutch East Indies, but neglected. Between 1898 and 1905 the first three Government posts on the coast. In 1938 Paniai “discovered.”. Only in the 1950s regular access to the Baliem Valley. These Highlands have a well developed agriculture with sweet potatoes and pigs. About 40 % of the Papuans live here. .
  • The Mission came in 1855, so called workmen-missionaries of the Gossner Mission. There were hardly any converts the first 50 years.
  • In the 1950s there is an increased Dutch effort at development of the Papuan population, in the first place those at the Coast. The Christian mission gets a very important role in setting up an educational system. The Papuans are being prepared for independence. In December they get a flag, the Morning Star flag, a representative council, the New Guinea Council and a Papua Batallion is formed. The immediate Indonesian response: mass mobilization and Russian military aid.
  • The Papua Volunteers Corps with the Dutch flag and the Morning Star flag.
  • Already in 1953 in Sarmi there was a church session with Papuans. The Evangelical Christian Church in Papua land became independent of the mission in 1956.
  • The Black Brothers, a Papuan pop group using traditional music with political texts, had to flee Indonesia in 1980 Arnold Ap : Papua music in the churches. Dance and music group Mambesak. Killed in 1984. His colleague Eddie Mofu was killed at the same time.
  • Initiative of the General Acub Zainal, the military commander. Also compulsory to cut one’s hair and to wash oneself.
  • Kshatriya pelindung rakyat: The soldier is the protector of the people.
  • Dani of the Baliem. This picture is also sold as a postcard
  • Traditional dress Highland women
  • New opportunities for the expression of the political and cultural wishes of the Papuans. New role for the churches: advocates for human rights, organizers of a dialogue, networks for communication, independent of govenrment controlled media.
  • Notwithstanding the
  • Also the motor taxidrivers are migrants
  • The migrants sell from a shop and the Paoua woman sits on the road side
  • Enthusiasm at the Papua Congress of May-June 2000 in Jayapura.
  • New Papua by Rev Benny Giay
  • Demand for Indpendence. However, after 2003 demonstrations are again harshly suppressed, just like any raising of the Morning Star flag.
  • Efforts at contextual theology: “When God is touching Papua”
  • Demonstrations with the Morning Star flag are bloodily repressed
  • Future uncertain. Continuous role of army and police. Even minor demonstrations are bloodlily repressed. Continued impunity of perpetrarors of human rights. International support for the Papuan cause is absent as indonesia considers separatism a form of high treason, and does not accept internatiuonal criticism for its role in Papua.
  • Yustinus was killed some time after he had made a televized appeal for a peaceful solution to the problem in Papua.
  • Human rights reports i.a. by Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, the Robert Kennedy Memorial Center.
  • Regaining Humanness. The Papuan struggle for human dignity

    1. 1. At Ipenburg
    2. 2. <ul><li>The background </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing scope of humanness </li></ul><ul><li>Full humanness denied </li></ul><ul><li>Regaining humanness </li></ul><ul><li>Conclusion </li></ul>
    3. 4. <ul><li>History: late access to the wider world </li></ul><ul><li>Role of Mission </li></ul><ul><li>Dutch rule </li></ul><ul><li>Indonesian control </li></ul>
    4. 6. <ul><li>1950: New Guinea separated from the Dutch East Indies, which became independent in December 1949 </li></ul><ul><li>From 1950 tot 1962 increased effort at development and at emancipation of the Papuans, especially those at the Coast. </li></ul><ul><li>Preparation for Papuan Independence, just like the Australian, British and French territories in the Pacific. </li></ul>
    5. 9. <ul><li>Values: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Equality of all human beings as children of God </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brother- and sisterhood across tribal lines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An identity as Papuans over one’s ethnic identity </li></ul></ul>
    6. 10. <ul><li>Representation: GKI in 1956 independent of Mission </li></ul><ul><li>Cooperation between Papuans of various ethnic backgrounds at Presbytery and Synod level. </li></ul><ul><li>Opportunities at individual advancement and leadership </li></ul>
    7. 11. <ul><li>October 1962: Indonesia occupies West Papua. </li></ul><ul><li>Indonesianisation: Papuanness rejected. </li></ul><ul><li>Security approach: army supreme </li></ul><ul><li>Human rights violations: impunity </li></ul><ul><li>Discontinuity </li></ul>
    8. 12. <ul><li>Continuous repression: West Papua Area of Military Operation (DOM). </li></ul><ul><li>Many Papuan cultural expressions forbidden: music, dance, way of dress. </li></ul><ul><li>Word ‘Papua‘ was discouraged: the territory renamed Irian Jaya; the inhabitants Irianese or (only) Biak, Me, Asmat, Dani and so on) </li></ul>
    9. 13. <ul><li>1971 – 1973 Effort at enforced indonesianisation: forcing pants on resistant Highlanders. </li></ul>
    10. 17. <ul><li>Ascension Day: Suharto steps down. Habibie becomes President. The New Order (1965-98) becomes the Orde Reformasi, The Reformation Order. </li></ul><ul><li>Promise of a “Dialogue” with the Papuans </li></ul><ul><li>Decline of repression – no more fear for the Intel. </li></ul>
    11. 18. <ul><li>Dialogue: We want Independence </li></ul><ul><li>Papua Congress: “socialization” and mobilization </li></ul><ul><li>New Papua: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>claiming back Papua history </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>memoria passionis </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>human rights advocay </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>supremacy of Papuan interests </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Independence (or at least real autonomy) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    12. 19. <ul><li>Transmigration: Papuans become a minority </li></ul><ul><li>Economic development focus on the modern (non-Papuan) sector </li></ul>
    13. 28. <ul><li>Zone Damai : peace zones </li></ul><ul><li>Papua Tanah Damai: Land of Peace </li></ul><ul><li>New role for the Papua Traditonal Law Council </li></ul><ul><li>But also increased immigration </li></ul><ul><li>Bankruptcy of Special Autonomy of 2001 </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of outside support for the Papuan case. </li></ul>
    14. 31. <ul><li>Papuans have a new sense of identity </li></ul><ul><li>The right to be a Papuan: black skin, frizzy hair, a Christian, </li></ul><ul><li>New initiatives: New Papua, Peace Zones, non-violence, human rights lobby </li></ul><ul><li>Interchurch and interreligious cooperation to avoid interreligious clashes (as in Ambon in 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Humanness regained, but the repression continues </li></ul>