Thursday, November 10, 2011

PAPUA, INDONESIA: Racial and religious hatred in action

By Elizabeth Kendal

More footage has emerged of the Indonesian Army's violent crackdown on the Third Papuan People's Congress in Zakeus Field, Abepura, on the outskirts of Jayapura, on 19 October. (For background, see Religious Liberty Monitoring: 27 Oct 2011 )

Many will find this footage quite upsetting. It shows plain clothed and uniformed security personnel shooting hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the crowd; beating, brutalising and humiliating scores of participants, and violently attacking the elected President of the West Papuan Transitional Government, Forkorus Yaboisembut.

More Brutal Footage emerges from Congress crackdown
West Papua Media 11 Nov 2011

The level of violence was more than disproportionate; it was totally unnecessary, for the participants were all unarmed civilians. The brutality was thus nothing more than raw racial and religious hatred in action. The footage will give viewers a clearer picture of what the Papuans have to live with.


In addition to this, another article provides further testimony from those who endured the military raids on the nearby religious institutions.

Papuan Church No Longer a Save Haven
By Engage Media 3 Nov 2011

On the afternoon of 19 October, after breaking up the Congress, armed police officers, Mobile Brigade officers and TNI soldiers stormed nearby religious institutions in search of fleeing Congress participants.

According to the above article, Father John Jehuru OSA, Rector of the Inter-diocesan Seminary, was watching the events unfold in Zakeus Field from in his study room in Fajar Timur School of Theology when a bullet flew through his window, only narrowly missing him.

Eye witnesses report that armed soldiers went room to room, ransacking the facilities and screaming at the "stupid priests" who had been providing refuge to Congress participants.

Several priests -- including Father Gonsa Saur and Father Yan You -- displayed immense courage and spiritual integrity in the face of serious intimidation and threats to their life. Likewise, many seminary students risked their lives to protect others. One student was violently attacked as he was trying to help a participant who had been shot. Soldiers struck the seminary student with the butt of a rifle, fracturing his arm. They also struck him in the face with a rubber batten, causing his nose swell. Finally they dragged him off to prison and held him in detention overnight. Only after being released the next day was the student able to seek medical attention for his broken bones and other injuries.

Once again -- this was not about putting down a coup or defending the integrity of Indonesia. Rather, this was nothing other than pure racial and religious hatred in action. It was armed Javanese Muslim soldiers given free range to do whatever they liked to unarmed Melanesian Christian civilians.


On 8 November, Aljazeera ran an excellent feature on Papua. Author, William Lloyd George, cut straight to the chase with his opening line: "While the international community is fixated on events taking place across the Middle East, they are turning a blind eye to desperate cries for help by the Papuan people."

West Papua's cry for help
By William Lloyd George, for Aljazeera, 8 Nov 2011

After providing an overview of contemporary Papuan history and suffering, William Lloyd George concludes by giving voice to the Papuan cry: "Why can Indonesia get away with shooting unarmed people, but other governments cannot?"

"The difference between us and the Middle East," one local Papuan told George, "is that we're not fighting a dictator. We’re fighting invading neo-colonialists who have stolen our land. If the international community doesn’t help us, West Papuan people will slowly perish while fighting for the independence we deserve."

But as Religious Liberty Monitoring has noted -- it really is not that simple. It is not that neo-colonialists can get away with murder but dictators can't. The sad reality is this: as much as we hate to admit it, foreign policy is dictated by economic and strategic interests, not human rights.

Unfortunately for the Papuans it is not in the interests of the "international community" (and by that they mean the West) to help them. For Papua is a resource-rich land and Indonesia is a highly strategic nation in a world where international politics has nothing to do with advancing what is right and just but everything to do with pursuing wealth and power. In such a depraved system, human beings are an inconvienience to be dealt with, while human rights are an obstacle to be navigated.

Consequently, it is imperative that men and women of conscience lift their voices and their prayers for, and be prepared to stand in costly solidarity with, such "inconvenient peoples". For the powers of this world -- even powers we have long trusted -- will only betray them, at least until it is in their political interests not to!