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