The Role of the Church in a Changing Society:A Case for Human Rights ActionDr. At Ipenburg,Theological College “Izaak Samu...
past 40 years. This they call their “memoria passionis”.2Ordinary church members, ministersand church leaders, have played...
antagonism, such as between male and female, light and dark, day and night, sun andmoon, land and swamps or land and sea, ...
Christianity was also the door to a much wider world. Community and fellowship nowtranscended the small tribal and clan un...
1985: 5.6 % a year. (Manning: 15). A sizeable part of the migrants, 44 %, consists of the so-called “transmigrants”, send ...
(Paniai) are lagging behind compared with the migrants from outside, with regard to level ofeducation, language skills, ec...
degrading punishment, or apply torture. Human beings belong to God. The Gospel teachesus an immense respect for every huma...
(e) The highest command is love. In the victims of human rights violations we see peoplewho are among the most neglected, ...
Declaration of Independence of 1776, which stated “All men are created equal, that theyare endowed by their creature with ...
responsible, as a human being, to try to prevent human rights violations anywhere in theworld. A neutral, objective and re...
witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interest and thuscontrol and harm others. The...
oppression. According to the Bible all human beings are created by God and are equalbefore God, whatever their ethnicity, ...
Papuans would demand more (i. e. independence) they would wake up the sleeping giant(referring to military might).The army...
The power of the Church is in the network it has, a system of communication, opportunitiesto celebrate together, to meet t...
successes in the struggle up to now, such as the access to President Habibi by the Team of100, the Papua Consultation (Mub...
Also at the Papua Consultation (Mubes or Musyawarah Besar Papua) in February 2000 andthe Second Papua Congress in May 2000...
and to governments, organisations and individuals that could influence the governments andthe perpetrators themselves to s...
Eluay, Theys 1999. Perenungan Serempak dan Doa Bangsa, Circular Letter from the PapuaLeader, 28 Augustus 1999Forum Rekonsi...
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The Churches and Human Rights in West Papua


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What is the role of the churches in a context of serious human rights violations like West Papua, Indonesia, and what should be its role?

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The Churches and Human Rights in West Papua

  1. 1. The Role of the Church in a Changing Society:A Case for Human Rights ActionDr. At Ipenburg,Theological College “Izaak Samuel Kijne” of the Evangelical Christian Church in West PapuaFebruary 2002Contents:1. Introduction2. Papuan culture3. Social change4. Human Rights5. The Role of the Church6. The Church in Papua and the Freedom Movement (Aspirasi “M”)7. Conclusion8. Discussion9. Bibliography1. IntroductionThis paper aims to discuss the role of the Church in West Papua1with regard to humanrights. West Papua has experienced the past decades fast political and social change. Since1998 a new freedom movement has emerged, the so-called “aspiration for freedom.”(“Aspirasi ‘M’ =Aspirasi Merdeka). There has been an extensive mobilisation of Papuans ofall walks of life: students, farmers, intellectuals, church ministers, youth, and women. All overWest Papua security posts were established (Pos Komando or Poskos) and later given up,after being told to do so by the police. Later satgas (Satuan Tugas = task force) wereformed to maintain order at the large demonstrations that continue to take place.. ThePapuans who in the past were hardly visible in public life, were not allowed their own identity,have reasserted themselves. They now express pride to be different. Papuans also, for thefirst time, began to speak openly about serious human rights violations they experienced the1We will use the name West Papua in this paper to indicate the Indonesian province Papua, theformer Irian Jaya. In the freedom movement most now call the area Papua Barat or West Papua.1
  2. 2. past 40 years. This they call their “memoria passionis”.2Ordinary church members, ministersand church leaders, have played an important role in the freedom and emancipationmovement. In the Suharto era (1965-1998), it was virtually impossible to bring out into theopen anything, which could be construed as a criticism on the Government. The Church wasthen really not in a position to join in any action to defend human rights. This has nowchanged. This provides a new opportunity for the Church, a redefinition of its role in societyand in politics.I argue that the struggle for human rights is central to the Gospel, and that it forms a majortask of the Church. The freedom struggle of the Papuan people poses a dilemma for theChurch. Should it support the demand for freedom and follow the aspiration of the majority ofthe Papuans. Freedom could be seen as a basic right, following out of the principle of thesovereignty of the people and the right to self-determination of every nation. Or should theChurch accept a neutral position on the issue of the freedom struggle, stressing theseparation of Church and State. This last option would probably satisfy those churchmembers, most of who are living in the towns, for a large part immigrants, who do not wantindependence for West Papua, but at most a special autonomy.2. Papuan culturePapuan culture is part of Melanesian culture, a culture area that stretches from the RajaAmpat Islands to Fiji. Melanesia includes Fiji, New Caledonia and Dependencies, PapuaNew Guinea, the Province Papua of Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. Thereseems to be no other area in the world has a larger diversity of languages, cultures, andsocieties. Beyond this diversity we can also observe a unity in the form of politicalorganisation. The traditional political structure is participatory and democratic. There isconsiderable participation of everybody involved in decision-making. The leader is usuallyelected. Sometimes there are several leaders who function at the same time, but havedifferent roles. The clan heads have an important role in the council with the leader. Such aloose, non-hierarchical and participatory structure can also be seen in modern organisationsdominated by Papuans, like the Gereja Kristen Injili (Evangelical Christian Church) in Papuaor the STT-GKI (Theological College of the GKI).There is also a unity in Papuan religion and cosmology. There are two basic concepts at adeep level: ‘dualism’ and ‘balance.’ There is a basic dualism in the cosmos and even an2Memoria passionis, the memory of suffering, is seen by Johan Baptist Metz as a hiddenforce, which stores latent energy, to be used to change the status quo (J. Budi Hernawan and Theovan den Broek, 1999.Dialog Nasional. Sebuah Kisah “Memoria Passionis” (Kisah Ingatan PenderitaanSebangsa), in: Tifa Irian, quoted in: Benny Giay, 2000. Menuju Papua Baru. Beberapa Pokok PikiranEmansipasi Orang Papua, Jayapura/Port Numbay : Deiyai/Elsham Papua : 9.2
  3. 3. antagonism, such as between male and female, light and dark, day and night, sun andmoon, land and swamps or land and sea, the coconut palm and the sago tree, etc.. Inreligious ceremonies, such as the large pig feasts among i.a. the Dani, Yali and Me of theBaliem valley or the Dema celebrations of the Marind-anim in the South, this basic dualism istemporarily overcome. ‘Balance’ is also expressed in the concept ‘reciprocity’. This is thebasis of traditional law. It is, in effect, an effort to make a balance between two opposites, tohave harmony between people among themselves, , between people and nature andbetween human beings and the spirits of the ancestors and the gods.For the Papuan theologian Kemung (: 15-16) from PNG the principle of “receiving-giving” isthe key concept of Melanesian culture. It means reciprocity, mutuality, generosity,community, koinonia, relationships and exchange. All this is expressed in the Kate languageof the author in one concept ‘nareng-gareng’ Other Melanesian languages have also oneconcept to express the same meaning. This ‘nareng-gareng’ is the basis of a Melanesiancontextual theology. It should also be the basis for the Missio Dei of the Church into theworld.In traditional culture there is not such a thing as individual human rights. Only the membersof one’s own language group were considered real human beings. The term used to indicateone’s own tribe or language group often just means ‘human beings’, ‘humankind’. The basicvalues of Melanesian society, however, express respect for others. This is implicit in theconcept like nareng-gareng, or gotong-royong (shared communal activities), which implybalance, community, sharing, which is also basic to the concept of human rights. It was nottill the advent of Christianity in West Papua, before the concept of “human being” wasextended beyond that of the tribal or linguistic group.3. Social changeWith the coming of Christianity in West Papua in 1855 the traditional value system changedconsiderably. New concepts like salvation by faith, surrender to God, self sacrificing love,giving and not expecting something back, the community of the faithful, coming from everytribe, nation, language group. Also “Western” values like individualism, honesty, and a strongwork ethic were introduced. The choice for conversion from “paganism” to Christianity wasoffered as an individual choice. Individuals had to follow the catechesis lessons and passthem before they could get baptized. This was in agreement with Pietism and Reveil, whichstress the emotional and personal aspects of religion. Pietism and Reveil were at the roots ofthe missionary movement, which initiated mission work in West Papua.3
  4. 4. Christianity was also the door to a much wider world. Community and fellowship nowtranscended the small tribal and clan units. In the process of conversion at first instance claninterests may have played a role.3In the course of church building different clans and tribesmet in mission schools, at presbytery and synod meetings.Christianity came to be linked with the Papuan identity. When the German missionaries C.W. Ottow and J. G. Geisler set foot on land in Mansinam on 5 February 1855 they fell ontheir knees on the beach and claimed the whole land for Christ. Now, because of this prayer,West Papua has to be Christian, and should belong to the (Christian) Papuans. The Churchalso became one of the first modern institutions where Papuans could take decisions bythemselves, in a democratic way through formal elections, based on a written constitutionand set rules about decision making.Before 1950 it were the Christian missions which were active in West Papua in the area ofeducation, church building, and the local economy, often helped with grants-in-aid by theGovernment. The interest of the Netherlands-Indies Government was “to show the flag,” toprevent other colonial powers to come too close to its colony it prized so much. There waslittle interest to develop West-Papua. These were the fringes of the Empire, the very end of“the Great East.” The real interest of the Dutch was in Java and Sumatra with the largecoffee, tea, rubber and sugar plantations, and the tin mines and oil wells. From the mid1950s the Netherlands Government began to invest in education, health services, roadmaking, with the aim to lead the Papuans to independence, aimed to take place in the early1970s. This was cut short by the integration with Indonesia in 1963. From 1970 onwardsIndonesia got heavily involved in the development of West Papua in mining, agriculture,communication, education etc. Transmigration, the subsidized move of farmers from Java tolarge transmigration areas in West Papua, was to be an important factor to realize theplanned increase in productivity.The 5 Five Year Plans from 1969 to 1994 aimed to have more than 2 million immigrantssettled in West-Papua, which by 1969 had about 750,000 inhabitants. This target was notreached, but in 2000 West-Papua had a population of over 2 million, with probably between25 and 30 % people (500,000-600,000) who had migrated there since 1970. In 1980 the netmigration was 79,000 and in 1985 131,000. (Manning, Chris 1989: 20). In the period 1980-1985 the population of West-Papua increased by 4.4 %, while the growth in Indonesia as awhole was 2.3 % a year. The urban population increased even more between 1980 and3See for this viewpoint the interesting analysis of conversion of the Me of Paniai, as a result of therivalry between the Pakage clan and the Mote clan by Benny Giay (1999).4
  5. 5. 1985: 5.6 % a year. (Manning: 15). A sizeable part of the migrants, 44 %, consists of the so-called “transmigrants”, send to West-Papua with the support of the Ministry ofTransmigration. Besides the official migration there is the free migration. These migrants arefrom areas, which have already for long contacts with West-Papua like Seram and Ambon,Ternate, Minahassa, Makassar and Toraja land (Middle Sulawesi). But also Chinese, Batakpeople and Javanese arrive here as free migrants, either as government officials, armypersonnel, or as entrepreneurs. These ethnic groups often have a specific role in theeconomy. The Buginese from Makassar are very dominant at the markets (“pasar”), wherethey have virtually a monopoly. Ambonnese are found in education and in government.Menadonese from Minahassa, North Sulawesi, are traders or professionals like doctors,Batak people work for the police or the army, Chinese are usually owners of supermarketsand hardware shops, Toraja work as carpenters, Madurese as haircutters, Javanese haveroadside food stalls (“warungs”). Many Javanese, probably the largest group among theimmigrants, are settlers at the large transmigration areas of Merauke, Sorong and Jayapura.The Papuans experience fierce economic competition from the recent arrivals, who oftencreate a monopoly in their branch through nepotism. As most of the migrants are Muslim thereligious factor also emerges as part of the relationship between Papuans and migrants.Most of the official transmigrants are Javanese Muslims. The number of Muslims in West-Papua increased from 255,747 (17 % )) in 1988 to 414,550 (20 % of the population) in1996. (Irian Jaya in Figures, 1996: 199), Two third of these (272,090) live in Sorong,Merauke and Jayapura Regencies and in Jayapura City. (Irian Jaya in Figures 1996: 199,Table 4.4.1). Islam, being the majority religion of Indonesia, has because of that a specialstatus and gets precedence, when it comes to access to grants-in-aid for church work..Christians fear to become a religious and maybe even a persecuted minority in the landwhere they and their ancestors, from time immemorial, were born. Every violation of thereligious freedom in the archipelago, send fear to the Christians in West Papua. The churchburnings in Sitobondo led to an official protest by the chairman of the Synod to the Governorof Papua.The fast extending infrastructure, a prime target for “development” of the Suharto period, ofroads, airway connections, telecommunication, clinics, schools, colleges seems to havebenefited especially the migrants, the “people from outside”. Each newly built road, like theroad from Nabire to Enarotali, or from Jayapura to Lereh, results in a new influx of migrants.The Papuans themselves increasingly also become migrants. They get involved with themoney economy. In some areas there is already a scarcity of land like in Paniai. But thePapuans from the interior, the Baliem valley, the Star mountains, the Wissel lake area5
  6. 6. (Paniai) are lagging behind compared with the migrants from outside, with regard to level ofeducation, language skills, economic skills, work discipline, work ethic and work experience.So when they come to town in search for work they have only limited opportunities. Manystay unemployed, with little income. This threatens to lead to a division in society betweenlowly educated and paid Papuans and more skilled and better-paid immigrants. ThePapuans threaten to move into a vicious circle of unemployment, raising their childrenwithout a perspective, drunkenness, involvement in crime. This leads to prejudice and finallyto discrimination against the Papuans. In this way the Papuans could become second-classcitizens in the land of their birth.This process is, it seems, cut short by the freedom movement. Now many youngunemployed Papuans, some with schooling up to higher secondary school, move into theSatgas Papua organisation, where they can have positions of responsibility and leadership.As Satgas Papua, with the black T-shirt and the small Morning star flag, they are respectedand often feared by the immigrants. The freedom movement leads to a positive attitudetowards being a Papua, now seen as “the lord of the land”.The freedom movement is a movement of emancipation of a population group which for along time felt set back. It is a struggle for equal rights.4. Human RightsWe could, like the authors of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, see humanand civil rights as “self evident.” As theologians we could also look for a theological basis ofhuman rights. The Bible does not know a concept like “human rights,” but there are manyclear references that human rights, as being part of the justice God wants for His people,belong to the nucleus of the biblical message. We could suggest six approaches. The firstbases itself on the Creation of the world by God. The second bases itself on the salvation ofhumankind by Jesus Messiah. The third approach points to the fellowship in the Church,Christ’s body. The fourth approach points to love as the highest command. The fifth points tothe demand that the Church and believers have to be “salt” and “a lamp” for the world. Thefinal approach bases itself on God given human freedom, to choose between good and evil.The Church also needs freedom of religion to be able to exercise its tasks in the world.(a) Human beings are created by God. This means that they are dependent on God, theirCreator. That means also that no human being can ever usurp the authority of God overone’s fellow human beings. He/she cannot play God over other fellow human beings anddecide about their life or death. Neither does he/she have the right to inflict cruel and6
  7. 7. degrading punishment, or apply torture. Human beings belong to God. The Gospel teachesus an immense respect for every human being, whatever his or her status in society. TheGospel shows a preference for people who, from human perspective, are marginal. Still theyhave a major place in the salvific plan of God with humankind. Prophets were called frombehind their ploughs to speak the Word of God to rulers. Simple Galilean fishermen wereselected by Jesus to follow Him and become Apostles, leaders of His Church. The poorLazarus, who spent his whole life begging for some food, was elevated above the rich man.(b) Jesus Christ died on the Cross to save sinners. This fact alone should already lead us tohave an immense respect for every individual, whatever his or her background, status,race, language, level of education as Jesus found him or her worth to shed His life for himor her. In Christ there is no room for any discrimination, for any consideration that particulargroups are inferior as “ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, foryou are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). There is a similarity which is notcoincidentally similar to Art 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, withoutdistinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion,national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.”(c) The Church (ekklesia) is a gathering of all those people who are called to salvation byfaith in Jesus as their Saviour. The Church is a place “were there is no Greek or Jew,circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is inall.”(Col. 3, 11 NIV). This is in nucleus already an appeal for equal rights. The principle ofequality, of non-discrimination is at the heart of the Gospel.(d) The Lord asks His followers to be “salt” and “a lamp” (Matthew 5, 13 and 15) for theworld.4This means that Christians have a clear task in the world. They are not only there forthemselves, but there presence should make a difference. Jesus identifies himself with thosewho suffer. At the Last Judgment "the King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did forone of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV) "He willreply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did notdo for me.” (Matthew 25:45 NIV). In those who suffer and those who are forgotten by theworld we meet Jesus.4Article 2 (a) of the Church Order of 1956 of the G.K.I. (Evangelisch Christelijke Kerk in NieuwGuinea) explicitly mentions that the task of the GKI is to be “the salt of he earth” and “the light of theworld.” (zie Kamma, 1977: 779)7
  8. 8. (e) The highest command is love. In the victims of human rights violations we see peoplewho are among the most neglected, people who are most in need. Love demands that weshould witness with regard to the cause of their suffering.(f) God gave humans freedom, when He created them with a free will. They have thepossibility to do good or evil, to choose for or against the Lord. This freedom is one essentialdifference between humans and animals. This freedom can never be given up, as withoutthis freedom humans cannot express their essential humanness. Human rights are alsodirectly relevant to the Church, as the Church itself needs freedom of speech and opinion tobe able to do its work well. It needs the freedom of opinion, the freedom of religion, thefreedom of speech, the freedom to worship in order to do its work well in the area ofcatechesis, preaching, the diaconal work, celebrating a church service and the sacraments,mission work, evangelization etc. If the Church itself can not function without these freedomsand rights it is clear that it should also be willing to fight for these rights if they are violatedanywhere in the world, whoever is the victim and whoever is the perpetrator.If we look to the causes of human rights violations one could look at national ideologies,which take on the form of a pseudo-religion. These ideologies may use physical force orcoercion to get enforced. The nation, national unity, God Almighty, a particular ethnic group,may all get deified. The Church should exercise its prophetic function to denounce theseaspects as a false religion. Human rights violations emerge in a climate of impunity. Theperpetrators set, because of this, a bad example to follow for others in his or her group. TheNazis (1933-1945) had a very explicit ideology with its idea of a “Herren Volk” (people of theLords, i. e. the Germans) and its rejection of Jews and Gypsies as an inferior race, ready tobe liquidated. The same is the case with the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia (1975-1979), theapartheid (separate development) regime in South Africa (1948-1991), Brazil (1964-1985),Chile under Pinochet (1973-1989) or Argentine under the colonels (1976-1983). In thesethree Latin-American countries the military took over the Government, human rightsviolations took place, including detention without trial, torture, and “disappearances” (illegalkillings by security forces). Anti-communism was the ideology used to legitimize the severehuman rights violations taking place in these countries. The Church with its message ofsalvation for humankind should be able to find arguments to detect such false religions,which open the door for human rights violations and a degradation of part of humankind.Human rights had already a fairly long history before they, like at present, were considered“universal’, that is considered valid for every human being, independent of race, level ofdevelopment, nationality, sex etc. Human and civil rights became part of the American8
  9. 9. Declaration of Independence of 1776, which stated “All men are created equal, that theyare endowed by their creature with certain unalienable rights, that among these are theright to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” In 1789 the French accepted a“Declaration of the Rights of Man” as binding for the new Republic. Gradually morecountries began to include such rights in their Constitutions. The Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights, accepted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 10 December1948, aimed to make these rights truly universal, binding for every member nation of theUnited Nations Organization. The Declaration emerged out of the struggle of the AlliedNations against Germany and Japan, with their ideologies of racial superiority, aiming atworld domination. After the War tribunals in Nuremberg and Tokyo were set up andGerman and Japanese perpetrators were brought to court on the accusation of “CrimesAgainst Humanity”. These include “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, andother inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during the war, orpersecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds...”5The Tribunals establisheduniversal jurisdiction. This means that national sovereignty cannot be used as anexculpation for crimes of these nature. Also the legal principle of non-retroactivity6waslifted to persecute crimes of this nature. Perpetrators can be brought to court in anycountry, as General Pinochet discovered in October 1998 when he went to Britain for amedical treatment.7It is also valid for those responsible for the mass murders of the Tutsiin Rwanda, the atrocities committed by Serbians in Bosnia and the genocide in Cambodiaduring the regime of Pol Pot, between 1975 and 1979. Also when national laws giveimmunity to these perpetrators, like in the case of General Pinochet, they can still bearrested when they go abroad.In a world where information is spread with the speed of light through new electronic media itis of essential importance that ordinary citizens, including NGOs and churches get involvedin creating an awareness to prevent human rights violations. Every individual should feel5This definition is taken from the August 1945 Charter of the International Military Tribunal for thetrial of major war criminals. The tribunal established by the United States, the Soviet Union, the UnitedKingdom, and France, conducted war crimes trials at Nuremberg in Germany between October 1945and October 1946. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East carried out similar functions inTokyo between May 1946 and November 1948. ("Crimes Against Humanity," Microsoft® Encarta®Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation).6Retroactive - influencing or applying to a period prior to enactment; having retrospective affect.7In October 1998 Pinochet was arrested while in the United Kingdom for medical treatment, over anextradition warrant to answer charges in Spain relating to human rights abuses during his rule. After aprotracted court case and demonstrations for and against him in Chile, London, and elsewhere, theHouse of Lords upheld the extradition request in March 1999, and in April the UK Home Secretary,Jack Straw, decided to allow his extradition.9
  10. 10. responsible, as a human being, to try to prevent human rights violations anywhere in theworld. A neutral, objective and reliable international organization like Amnesty Internationalcould provide the framework for such an action. A careful analysis of the ethics of the Nazisteaches us that, generally speaking, it is fairly easy for ordinary people to becomeperpetrators of human rights violations. (Haas, Peter J 1988). Early action when humanrights violations are detected can prevent a situation to grow from bad to worse. Theconclusion of Haas (1988: 223) with regard to the Holocaust is that “(n) ormal people endedup doing wicked things because their society and culture failed to define their acts as evil.The problem of evil is one of human culture, one that occurs when people are left toconstruct their own societies in the absence of God.”It is striking to note that even in such a climate as that of Nazi Germany during the SecondWorld War there were still people brave enough to stick out their necks and to stand for theirprinciples. In some cases they gained respect through this and could even prevent humanrights violations to take place.5. The Church and Human RightsThe Church has an important contribution to make in the area of human rights as it iswitnessing its message of the Good News to the poor and rejected. The Church has amission to the world. It has to be “salt and a lamp” (Matthew 5:13, 14). We can learn fromhistory that the Church can make an impact. Just two examples.In 1933 the Confessing Church in Germany, led by Karl Barth, made the “Barner Thesen”,rejecting the grounds of the Nazi ideology and branding it as non-Christian and antiChristian. This protest did not lead immediately to a result. Barth himself was expelled in1935. However, looking backwards it has been very important that at least part of the Churchstood form and realized the dangers inherent in the ideology of German national-socialismand spoke out. One minister, Dietrich Bonhoefer of the Lutheran Church, joined in 1939,after the outbreak of war, the political resistance against Adolf Hitler.In 1982 the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, led by Boesak, came with a new confession,the Belhar confession, to provide a theological basis of the struggle against apartheid. Itstrongly condemned, based on the Gospel, any separation or discrimination of humans. Itconcluded that “the Church must … stand by people in any form of suffering and need,which means, among other things, that the Church shall witness against and strive againstany form of injustice, so that ‘justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like anever-flowing stream’, that the Church as God’s possession must stand where he stands,namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the Church must10
  11. 11. witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interest and thuscontrol and harm others. Therefore we reject any ideology, which would legitimate forms ofinjustice, and any doctrine, which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of theGospel. We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only Head, the Church is called toconfess and to do all this, even though authorities and laws forbid them, and even thoughpunishment and suffering be the consequence. Jesus is Lord.”8The Dutch Reformed Church, the leading church of the Europeans in South Africa, declaredracism a sin in 1986. This led to the change of mind of President De Klerk, abolishingapartheid and opening the way to a majority government in South Africa. In February 1990Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for almost 30 years for his fight against apartheid, was releasedfrom prison. Church leaders like Allan Boesak en Desmond Tutu played a leading role in thestruggle against the injustice of the apartheid regime.Desmond Tutu became after the dismantling of apartheid the chairman of the Truthand Reconciliation Committee, an essential step in the building of the new South Africa.The Commission was established in 1995 with the aim of reconciling all South Africans totheir experience of apartheid by establishing the truth about its history. The Commissioncriticized the role of all the countrys main political parties during the apartheid era, but byfar the strongest criticism was directed at the National Party and its implementation andenforcement of the apartheid system, which was described in the report as a crimeagainst humanity.9Especially in the field of ideology critique, social values and ethics the Church has animportant contribution to offer. It is the duty of the Church is to preach and to live the Gospel.The honoring and implementation of human rights is a major criterion to judge governmentsand states, from a Christian perspective. This does not necessarily mean that the Churchgets involved in politics. But it can and should plead on behalf of the weak, the voiceless, thevictims, whatever their faith, ethnicity or nationality.1. The Church in West Papua and the Freedom Movement (Aspirasi “M”)There is a relationship between the preaching in the Church and the struggle for freedom ofthe Papuan people. The Gospel message is a message of liberation from sin and8Draft Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, 1982, in: Documents on Mission, 1985,Pretoria: Unisa9South Africas Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. ©1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation11
  12. 12. oppression. According to the Bible all human beings are created by God and are equalbefore God, whatever their ethnicity, skin colour, level of education etc. In the freedomstruggle of the Papuans of West Papua very often images from the Bible are used, like theExodus. When the Team of 100 went to President Habibie in February 1999 to ask forfreedom it was for the people like Moses and Aaron going to the Egyptian Pharaoh to ask tolet the people of Israel go to Canaan, their promised land. The Papuans identify themselveswith the people of Israel. We see the development of a spontaneous, grassroots localtheology, stressing the themes of freedom and liberation.During the “New Order” (Orde Baru) (1965-1998) the Church and any other institution had tofollow the policies of the Government. Dissent and criticism was discouraged or punishedseverely. In various ways the Government and the Army tried to get control over the Church,by rewards and punishments. There were not many ways the Church could expressdiscontent or criticism of government policies. Compared to other institutions the Church wasstill left with some autonomy. It has its own, democratic, system of government andmembers could meet and discuss things in the congregations, the presbyteries and thesynod general meetings. The Government tried to get a foothold in the Church. TheGovernor, Head of the Police and the Head of the Army in West Papua were usuallyChristian. Government and army officials were always visibly very much present at importantchurch gatherings and were offered the opportunity to address the gathering, in order toprovide the Government’s and the Army’s exegesis of the “signs of the time.” GovernorFreddy Numberi called, for instance, in October 1998 on the Christian segment of IrianJayas population to accept Gods divine will that their land became an integral part of thearchipelago through the Act of Free Choice which was, according to him, the final solution tothe dispute over the province between Indonesia and the Netherlands. "Let us not rejectGods will," he said.10In this way the governor put on the gown of a church minister,disregarding a separation between church and state.When the new provincial police commander-in-charge, Brigadier General Silivianus YulianWenas, took office he told the press that he would try a new approach to solve the WestPapuan problem, the pendekatan kasih, the (Christian) love approach. He even went to thechurches to speak about it. Some church leaders resented this, and complained that thepolice commander had the best of both worlds: the bible and the gun. If one approach wouldnot work the second could be tried. Wenas made that also clear himself. He said that if10 Saturday, October 10, 1998Irian Jaya: President Habibie Agrees To Attend Dialogue12
  13. 13. Papuans would demand more (i. e. independence) they would wake up the sleeping giant(referring to military might).The army commander, being an active member of the prestigious Paulus congregation ofthe GKI, used informal pressure to influence the church leadership.Also through the Pancasila ideology the Government tried to control the churches. It wascompulsory for every citizen and every institution, including the churches, to agree with itand include it in their constitution.11Criticism of this ideology was punishable by law. Sincethe “reformasi” this has changed. Adherence to Pancasila remains a requirement, butorganizations are now only being asked not to be inconsistent with it rather than to base theirgroup ideology on it.12The margins, within which the Church could operate and claim its independence, wereexcept in purely dogmatic issues, quite limited. In fact the GKI played a role in appeasingprotest against the Indonesian Government, encouraging the members to be cooperativewith the Indonesian Government. The Chairman of the Synod of the GKI, Rev. Rumainum,wrote in 1969 a pastoral letter asking the church members to obey the Government and let itcarry out its Act of Free Choice in peace (Benny Giay, 1996: 2).However, in 1992 the GKI submitted a lengthy report on human rights violations to the PGI,the Indonesian Council of Churches. It had the names of 140 political prisoners from IrianJaya. 13On 7 July 1998 the three largest churches of West Papua, the GKI, the Roman CatholicChurch and the GKII, issued, in a hurry, a pastoral letter with an appeal to calm on the eve ofa large demonstration. The provincial commander in chief of the army had then justannounced that he would give the order to shoot and kill if the demonstration would go on.The army was called upon to exercise restraint and not shoot. The people were also askedto remain peaceful and not to use any violence.1411Tata Gereja dan Pedoman Pelayanan Gereja Kristen Injili di Irian Jaya, 1998, Badan Pekerja AmSinode GKI, Jayapura. Penetapan Sidang Sinode XI, Date: 13 July 1988: the Acceptance andInclusion of Pancasila in the Church Rules of the GKI in Irian Jaya of the year 1984.12Indonesia and East Timor. Indonesia an Audit of Human Rights Reform. AmnestyInternational - Report - ASA 21/12/99,March 1999.13Irian Jaya Mernjelang 50 Tahun Kembalui ke Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia. UntukKeadilan dan Perdamaian (Suatu Pertanggung Jawaban Sejarah). Laporan Disampaikan KepadaMPH-PGI dari GKI di Irian Jaya, April 1992. Pdt. W. Rumsarwir, Chairman; Rev. K. Ph. Erari,Secretary.14Pernyataan Sikap dan Seruan. Pastoral Letter by the GKI, the Roman Catholic Church and theGKII, signed by Rev. Herman Awom, Vice Chairman of the GKI, Leo Laba Ladjar, Bishop of Jayapura,13
  14. 14. The power of the Church is in the network it has, a system of communication, opportunitiesto celebrate together, to meet together and decisions together as on Synod and Presbyterymeetings.The longing for freedom, the “Aspirasi M”, has a long history. In traditional society people feltfree as the social structure was based on consultation. Decisions are not taken alone but inconsultation with all parties involved. In case one did not want to support the decision onewas free to follow one’s own course. The unity of society was in shared myths, shared ritualslike the large pig feasts, having a sacramental character, the wars, with changing allies, thepeace making ceremonies, the exchange of brides, trade etc. In the Northern parts of West-Papua the myth of Koreri has been always very active. This myth expresses the hope of anew time, when there will be an abundance of goods and when there will be peace andharmony. One time the mythical Saviour figure of Manseren Mangumbi will return from theWest where in ancient time he went. The Me people of Paniai have a similar myth whereKoyeidaba is the Saviour, who once will return. When there is stress and difficulties this mythpops up and a prophet (konoor) announces the immediate coming of the Saviour and thegood times. In the Baliem the experience with a central government, mainly by people fromoutside the Baliem, is quite recent. The original communities were very small, based onkinship. The groups were ruled by egalitarian leaders, chosen by the community, the so-called “Big Men.” In Orde Baru Indonesia, however, every form of dissent and protest wasimmediately repressed with an excess of violence. A principle of Melanesian culture is thatthere always should be a balance. This means that every injury and every death has to becompensated by another injury or another death. As an alternative damages could also becompensated by payments. Within the context of the existing impunity of the security forces,who were the perpetrators, the people could not get any redress. Complaints could evenlead to further intimidations and threats. This meant that the victims and their relativesremained with the feeling of hatred, of anger, of frustration and of trauma at the injusticesdone to them. These feelings could explode. They definitely form an important causal factorin the present discontent with Indonesian rule the past 37 years.In the freedom movement the Church plays an important role. People interpret the politicaland social reality with concepts of the Christian faith. A contextual Papua theology, createdby the ordinary church members, has emerged. Political aspirations are translated intoreligious terms, with an eschatological character. Jesus is, at times, seen as the King of thePapuans. As a result of prayer, and mainly prayer, the Papuans have achieved theirand Rev. Benny Giay, Chairman of the GKII., Jayapura, 7 July 199814
  15. 15. successes in the struggle up to now, such as the access to President Habibi by the Team of100, the Papua Consultation (Mubes) in February and the Second Papua Congress in May2000. People believe that because of the continuous prayers the struggle has been relativelypeaceful, at least compared with the violence in the Moluccas, Aceh and East Timor.The Papua flag, with the Morning Star is a messianic symbol. Jesus is called the risingmorning star in Revelations 22, 16b. Now it is still dark, but the day will definitely come.Theys Eluay, a traditional leader or “ondofolo” in Sentani, called upon all Papuans inDecember 1999 to pray without ending, till freedom should be achieved. In many villagesevery evening at a set time all the people come together at a central place and have a publicprayer for freedom. In August 1999 Theys called upon the people to pray and fast for threedays on 3, 4 and 5 September and to decorate their houses with a cross. The people wereasked, "to pray that the mighty hand of the Lord will accomplish the complete work asdemanded by the struggling Papuan people, that is to achieve the recognition of their right tosovereignty in relation to freedom and independence.” The letter ended with the identificationof the suffering of the Papuan people with the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ on theCross. There was also an appeal to forgive “for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke23, 34). (Circular Letter, Sentani, 28-8-1999)The movement for a national dialogue about the most important grievances was in firstinstance organized by the three largest churches of West Papua, the Evangelical ChristianChurch (GKI, Gereja Kristen Injili di Irian Jaya), the Roman Catholic Church and theEvangelical Tabernacle Church (Kingmi or GKII, Gereja Kemah Injili di Indonesia). In July1998 the churches set up up an organisation called Foreri, Forum for the Reconciliation ofthe People of Irian Jaya. It was set up just at the eve of large demonstrations, which thepolice had threatened to crush with violence. It wanted to establish a dialogue between thegovernment, including the army and police and the various groups in society, who werethemselves divided what to choose: freedom (merdeka or M), autonomy (otonomi or O) orrather federalism (federasi or F). Foreri asked the Government guarantees that the peoplecould speak out freely. It then organized at district and regency level dialogues on theseissues. In all places almost unanimously the dialogue resulted in a demand forindependence (“M”). The results were written down and handed over to the head of thedistrict or the head of the regency, with the request to forward it to the provincial authorities.At provincial level 100 delegates from the regencies unanimously choose the option “M”. InFebruary 1999 this wish of the people was brought forward to President Habibi in Jakarta, inthe form of a petition by the, so-called, Team of 100.15
  16. 16. Also at the Papua Consultation (Mubes or Musyawarah Besar Papua) in February 2000 andthe Second Papua Congress in May 2000 ministers and pastors had a prominent place inthe leadership and the organisation. The Church definitely listens to the voice of the peopleand tries to convey this message to the government. Ministers and church leaders areintensively engaged in the freedom movement. The churches provide a network forcommunication, uncontrolled by the government. Ministers are for their livelihood notdependent on the government, which means they can more freely speak out.There is still work to do. Amnesty International states in a recent report about Indonesia: “…a climate of impunity persisted. Prosecutions of members of the security forces for humanrights violations continued to be the exception rather than the rule. Those who were broughtto trial were generally from the lower ranks and were given light sentences. Many cases ofpast human rights violations remained unresolved.”15Amnesty International also criticizedthe decision by the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) on 18 August 2000 to make aconstitutional amendment that prevents people being charged under any laws, which did notexist when the crime took place, even if a law specifically states it can be appliedretroactively. “Any attempt to shield perpetrators of past human rights violations wouldeffectively render all the recent efforts to end impunity in Indonesia meaningless,” accordingto Amnesty International.166. ConclusionIt seems important for the churches of West-Papua to work together in the area of humanrights education, human rights action. The churches, in view of their extensive local networksand their international contacts, are the most suitable to engage in these activities. AmnestyInternational, as an objective and neutral organisation could be of importance in this context,for instance by promoting the establishment of local support groups and a section in West-Papua. In countries where there is no effective mechanism to enforce rights public opinion isthe only way to prevent human rights violations by appealing to the conscience of theoffenders. This is done by arguing, by appealing to one’s conscience and to appealcontinuously to honour international binding agreements on human rights. Often theperpetrators themselves can be reached through networks of professional groups. This isdone by writing letters, sending emails, spreading information to the offending governments,15 AI Home page, Publications 2000, POL 10/001/00.16Quoted in Statement by Church leaders and NGOs in West Papua, 19 Augustus 2000.throughTAPOL u16
  17. 17. and to governments, organisations and individuals that could influence the governments andthe perpetrators themselves to stop human rights violations.7. Discussion(a) Should the churches in West Papua do an effort to use the democratic space nowavailable to initiate, a grass roots investigations of human rights violations, in aneffort to record the “memoria passionis.” It could extend and update the GKI report,the so-called “Blue Book”. of April 1992. This could help to bring about reconciliation.It could also help to create human rights awareness with common people, in order toprevent human rights violations in future.(b) Should the churches initiate a special human rights education project, to train itsmembers to become aware of human rights violations and how to report these tonational and international human rights organizations? Amnesty International couldgive assistance with such a project. In particular in the training of ministers humanrights education should have a prominent place.(c) Should the Church in West Papua encourage members to join international humanrights organizations, like Amnesty International, and so raising awareness abouthuman rights as a worldwide issue and to express in this way solidarity with victimsall over the world?(d) Is, in the case of West Papua also at stake the cultural right to exist for the Papuans?In the past they have experienced Indonesianisation, as even the word “Papua” wasconsidered taboo and expressing disagreement with the Government. How to createroom for a specific Papuan approach in politics, the economy, in music and art, inlaw? How to realize such a Papuanisation?17(e) Is there a need in West Papua for special workshops where members of the securityforces (army and police) get training in human rights and how to maintain humanrights in the exercise of their duties? Should the Church, e.g. through its army andpolice chaplains, take an initiative here, with the help of international human rightsorganisations?8. BibliographyDocuments on Mission, 1985, Pretoria: Unisa17See Chapter 6 Papuanisasi dari Masa ke Masa in: Benny Giay, 2000: Menuju Papua Baru : 81-91.17
  18. 18. Eluay, Theys 1999. Perenungan Serempak dan Doa Bangsa, Circular Letter from the PapuaLeader, 28 Augustus 1999Forum Rekonsiliasi Rakyat Irian Jaya. Press Release 28 July 1998Giay Benny, 1996. Church and Society: The Church Leaders of Irian Jaya in the Midst ofChange and Conflict. A Discussion Paper prepared fro Ekumindo meeting held in DeTiltenburg, Vogelensang, 18-19 April 1996 (unpublished)Giay, Benny 1999. The Conversion of Weakebo. A Big Man of the Me Community in the1930s, in: The Journal of Pacific History, 34, 2Giay, Benny, 2000 (Second Ed) Menuju Papua Baru. Beberapa Pokok Pikiran SekitarEmansipasi Orang PapuaHaas, Peter J 1988. Morality after Auschwitz. The Radical Challenge of Nazi Ethic,Philadelphia: Fortress Press Jaya in Figures 1996, Jayapura, 1997: Statistical Office of Irian Jaya ProvinceKamma, F. C. 1977 „Dit Wonderlijke Werk.” Band 2, Oegstgeest: Raad voor de Zending derNed. Hervormde KerkKemung, Numuc 1998. Nareng-gareng. A Principle for Mission in the Evangelical LutheranChurch of Papua New Guinea, Erlangen: Erlanger Verlag fuer Mission und Oekumene, 228pp., (World Mission Script: 5)Manning, Chris, Alaric Maude en Dianne Rudd 1989. Outer Eastern Indonesia: AnExploratory Survey of Population Dynamics and Regional Development. (Discussion PaperNo. 22). The Flinders University of South Australia: Centre for Development Studies.Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft CorporationAddresses of human rights organisations:Amnesty International, International Secretariat,1 Easton Street, WC1X 0DW, London, United KingdomEmail: URL: http://www.amnesty.orgAmnesty International, Malaysian Section18