Thursday, March 31, 2005


Date: Thursday 31 March 2005
Subj: Papua: Christian leader fears genocide.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

In Papua (formerly Irian Jaya), Eastern Indonesia, a quiet, hidden, atrocious campaign of ethnic cleansing is in progress. Unless there is radical policy change and reform, Papua will soon become majority Javanese and majority Muslim through the genocide of the predominantly Protestant indigenous Papuans. It is appalling hypocrisy that many Western governments that espouse the high principles of human rights seem content to disregard the genocidal policies of the Indonesian government, and the genocidal atrocities perpetrated by the systemically corrupt Indonesian military (TNI) against indigenous Papuan civilians – policies and atrocities enacted with the sole aim of attaining unhindered access to Papua's vast resources for the purpose of exploitation. Through joint military training agreements, governments will ensure that the TNI is as professional a well armed human rights-abusing killing machine that it can be. These governments will be judged by history as complicit in this genocide, regardless of their human rights rhetoric.


SBS Dateline (Australia) recently aired a report on Papua by Nick Lazaredes. (Link 1)

The report comprised film footage smuggled out of Papua, and interviews with a milita informant, a human rights activist who infiltrated the Laskar Jihad, and Papuan Baptist minister Sofyan Yoman. Pastor Yoman expresses his deep fear for the future of the predominantly Protestant indigenous Papuan people as Indonesia implements a policy of transmigration, shipping in massive numbers of Muslim immigrants to alter the racial and religious demographics of Papua. He says that six ferry loads of Muslim immigrants and soldiers arrive each day.

Pastor Yoman also alleges that special autonomy funds to the value of 2.5 billion rupiah (around US$260,000), meant for humanitarian purposes, have been diverted to the Indonesian military (TNI) and are being used for military operations and atrocities against indigenous Papuans. These is great concern for large numbers of indigenous Papuans who have been driven from their homes by TNI operations. Photos shown on SBS Dateline pictured the aftermath of a TNI attack in late February on the remote highland village of Wunin, where elderly villagers were murdered and schools and churches were burnt to the ground. It is estimated that some 20,000 Papuans are struggling to survive in the jungle. Many are dying of disease and starvation in an unseen campaign of ethnic cleansing.


SBS Dateline obtained information that indicates the aid funds are being spent by the TNI primarily in funding and training militias. A militia informant told SBS Dateline, "I can tell you here and now that in Manokwari the military are establishing and organising militias, which are known as Satgas Merah Putih. They have established two bases in Manokwari, in transmigrant areas where there [are] many Muslims."

According to the informant, the pro-Indonesia Satgas Merah Putih (Red and White militias) are being armed in preparation for an ethnic cleansing campaign against the indigenous Papuans. The informant continues: "Large numbers of bullets in boxes are being stored in workshops in food stalls and by the road. What is the motive or reason for this? So I am convinced that the military is organising militias in these two places and at some stage these militias will become a force used to attack the community as happened in East Timor."


SBS Dateline also interviewed a human rights activist who had infiltrated the Laskar Jihad (Islamic "holy war" militia) through the local Mujaheddi mosque in Sorong. He told SBS, "The sort of activities Laskar Jihad were involved in, in Sorong, were firstly, intimidating and killing Papuans who were involved in the Papua Independence Movement, and secondly, spreading rumours in various places, to create fear." He also described to SBS the nature of the Islamic teaching received in the mosque. "The truth of Islam had to be made concrete, so we had to wage jihad against those who wanted to destroy the Islamist community, both its people and its places of worship. We were taught how to monitor the strength of the religious groups. In particular in Sorong, we monitored places of worship. I don't just mean Christian places of worship but also those of other religions. We were also told to determine the number of neighbourhoods in Sorong where the majority of inhabitants were Christian." He also noted, "Haji Ahmad once said in the Mujaheddin mosque, our network, the Laskar Jihad in Sorong, all its activities would be reported to al-Qa'ida."


In the SBS Dateline interview, Pastor Yoman comments on the link between the TNI and the militias: "Wherever there are Indonesian soldiers, the militia and the jihadists are there too. They are inseparable. They are very close." With this in mind, the news that the military is about to enlarge its presence in Papua, particularly in Sorong, is of great concern.

According to the Jakarta Post (19 March), Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Hotmagaradja Pandjaitan said on Friday 18 March, that, in line with the Army's guidelines on the development of its strength, a new division of elite troops is to be set up and stationed in Papua. The Jakarta Post reports that the plan involves the gradual deployment of up to 15,000 troops from the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) from 2005 through 2009.

"The first 5,000 troops will be recruited from Makassar in South Sulawesi," Pandjaitan told the Jakarta Post. "They will be deployed in Sorong, Papua. To bring the number up to a total of 15,000, we will also recruit troops from military commands (Kodam) nationwide."


The present scenario faced by indigenous Papuans is that of increased Javanese Muslim population, increased TNI presence, increased Western support (including military training) for the TNI, restrictions on foreign journalists and NGOs, and war-ready TNI armed and trained Merah Putih and Laskar Jihad militias, all in a rich land ripe for exploitation. No wonder Papuan Christian leaders are warning of impending genocide.


The World Council of Churches' (WCC) will seek to raise awareness of the critical situation in Papua at this year's 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) (12 March-22 April ). According to the WCC press release, notable religious leaders from Papua will address a public event on Thursday, 31 March. Then from 2- 4 April, representatives of faith-based bodies attending the 61st session, including the WCC, will meet to strategise together on the human rights of the Papuan people. A study on the economic, social and cultural rights of the Papuan people commissioned by the German churches with the WCC, and undertaken by Papuan academics and human rights defenders, will also be released. (Link 2)

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) SBS Dateline – transcript. 16 March 2005

2) Papua focus of WCC at UNCHR 61st session

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Senegal: Christian workers on trial.

Date: Tuesday 22 March 2005
Subj: Senegal: Christian workers on trial.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


According to its constitution, Senegal is a secular state. However, many Senegalese regard their nation as Islamic, with no place for visible, active Christianity, especially missionary work. This intolerance is fostered and fed at the highest levels of local Islamic leadership. Increased anti-Christian sentiment is expressing itself in increasing levels of intolerance and more frequent incidents of persecution in what has historically been one of West Africa's most tolerant Muslim nations.


Senegal’s President Maitre Abdoulaye Wade has announced that Senegal will host the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit and a subsequent Muslim-Christian dialogue in December 2006. In a 24 February interview in Yemen with the Yemen Observer, President Wade said that a dialogue of leaders from the region was needed to discuss the issue of religious tolerance.

President Wade told the Yemen Observer, "I have proposed an Islamic and Christian dialogue that would be at the end of the conference we are organizing in Senegal, immediately after the OIC summit in November '06, if this date is maintained."

According to the Yemen Observer, "Saudi Arabia has put forward a rival proposal to host the next OIC summit in Mecca, but Wade claims strong support for Dakar, including African and Western countries interested in bridging the misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians. 'The idea is in the air,' he said, 'for a dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews. This dialogue exists – the Pope has supported seminars between ulammas and archbishops of the Vatican, but there has never been a summit of the leaders of the world. The leaders of the world need to send a very strong message to the world community for tolerance and understanding,' said Wade.

"In Senegal, he pointed out, the population is 5% Christian. 'In every family we can have Muslims and Christians. Everyone should have the right to practice their own religion, and the Prophet is an example of this – he received Jews, he received Christians. But now there is intolerance and prejudice. We have to eliminate this and learn to live in the same land, the same country, the same Earth, because I think we all have the same God.' " (Link 1)

The key word in all this is clearly "misunderstandings". A regional dialogue to clear up "the misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians" might not advance the cause of religious tolerance very much, as the persecuted apostates and remnant Christians of the Muslim world might struggle to accept that their experience of Islam as an oppressive, intolerant system is a "misunderstanding". (This in no way implies that all Muslims are intolerant.) However, a dialogue about full religious freedom (as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 18 – which includes the right to convert), security for all, equality for all (including before the law), and the problem of the inherent intolerance of Qur'anic and historic Islam would be very interesting and possibly very worthwhile.

Senegal presently has an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to religious tolerance. The Reverend Moises Suriba, a Brazilian Christian worker, and his colleague, Francois Iraguha from Rwanda, minister to street boys and homeless young men in Dakar, Senegal. They have become victims of Senegal's rising religious intolerance. Senegal's historic commitment to religious tolerance is about to be tested in the courts in what is the first legal action against Christian workers in Senegal.


The Reverend Suriba and his co-worker Francois Iraguha run a ministry for street boys and homeless young men in Dakar. Some 18 young men live in the Bethany Mission house and receive professional skills training. Dozens of other street boys and homeless young men go in and out of the house freely: for showers, medical care, food, clothing and company.

According to reports, neighbours became hostile towards the Christian ministry, especially after several young Muslim men turned to follow Christ. On several occasions groups of local Muslims have invaded the house and been disruptive and abusive. The Christian workers are regularly threatened.

Eventually one hostile neighbour pressed charges against Suriba and Iraguha, alleging that they had physically assaulted them. Suriba and Iraguha were not able to defend themselves in court against the charges as the case was heard in their absence.

On 28 December 2004, Suriba and Iraguha were convicted of assault and sentenced to one month jail plus a fine of 50,000 FCFA (US$100 – around an average week's wage in Senegal). Suriba and Iraguha have appealed against the judgment. The penalties have been deferred and the case will soon be heard again by the Court of Appeal in Dakar. Meanwhile, the same hostile neighbour who lodged the initial charges of assault has since lodged a complaint against the deferment of the penalties.

An observer notes that this is the first time a hostile Muslim has attempted to use the law as a weapon against a Christian ministry in Senegal, and they fear that if he is successful this could set a new trend in persecution in Senegal. This case will set a precedent one way or the other.

It would be good for the international Christian community to watch this case. Will Senegal refuse to tolerate intolerance, even in the face of rising Islamic zeal and anti-Christian, anti-missionary sentiment? If Senegal wants to dialogue about religious tolerance with regional leaders in Dakar's grand halls in December 2006 then it must promote and demonstrate religious tolerance in Senegal's mosques and on the streets of Dakar today. For the sake of Dakar's homeless young men, indeed for the sake of all Senegalese society which is the ultimate beneficiary of such Christian ministries, we hope and pray that tolerance and justice prevail.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Senegalese president calls for dialogue of world leaders
By Faris Al-Sanabani & Gabriel Matthew
Yemen Observer Newspaper
24 Feb 2005 – Vol.VIII Issue 08
Senegal to Host Interfaith Dialogue Meet
By Javid Hassan, Arab News, RIYADH, 23 February 2005