Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Papua, Indonesia: Time for Change

-- the status quo will end in genocide.

The following post provides supplementary material for:

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 268| Wed 9 July 2014
By Elizabeth Kendal

As noted in RLPB 268, "Papua's predominantly Christian, indigenous ethnic Melanesians desperately need change. However, it is highly unlikely that Islamists or the TNI or all the corrupt business and political elites who reap financial gain from Islamist and TNI business in Papua, will simply give up their ambitions and economic rewards for the sake of those often regarded merely as 'black infidels'.

courtesy: World Team
"If change is to come to Papua, it will require profound conviction and commitment in Jakarta backed (or even generated) by a profoundly convicted and committed 'international community', for as in 2000 [under President Wahid], any reform would face considerable opposition [see RLPB 268].

"On the other hand, if there is no reform, if things just quietly go on as they are, then the demise -- the genocide -- of Papua's indigenous peoples is within sight. Of course for many that merely spells 'problem solved'. Such thinking is an evil the Church cannot abide. For 'the Lord's portion is his people', they are 'the apple of his eye' (see Deuteronomy 32:9-11).

Recommended reading


Lowy Institute for International Policy

Prabowo and human rights
Inside Indonesia (April-June 2014)
Jakarta 1998 was bad, but Prabowo likely had more blood on his hands in East Timor
By Gerry van Klinken

The business of politics in Indonesia
Inside Indonesia (April-June 2014)
Democratic institutions are increasingly burdened by the illicit transactions and collusive practices of politico-business elites
By Eve Warburton

INDONESIA-PAPUA: prospects for reform

Otsus Plus

IPAC (Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict) Report No. 4
25 November 2013

‘Otsus Plus’ for Papua: What’s the point?
Cillian Nolan (IPAC), Jakarta | Opinion | 7 March 2014


For background see Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: Papua
in particular:
Islamising Papua
By Elizabeth Kendal for WEA RLC, July 2008

West Papua Report, December 2013
PERSPECTIVE: Religious Changes Afoot in Papua
by Charles Farhadian, PhD
"Islam is growing so rapidly not only because of the large numbers of Muslim transmigrants arriving daily to the region, but also because of conversion of Christian Papuans to Islam. . . . Muslim missionaries have made great strides in compelling Christian Papuans to change their religion, despite Indonesian laws that prohibit proselytization. At least two villages in the highlands of West Papua have converted from Christianity en masse to Islam.'

Documentary: Papua's New Dawn? 
By Mark Davis for SBS Dateline, 3 June 2014
(27 minutes, transcript available)
Includes a meeting with outspoken church leaders, Socrates Yoman and Benny Giay.

Islamisation of Papuan children

Lured with promises with free education, Papuan children are transported to Java, held captive in Islamic boarding schools, forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and indoctrinated in puritanical Salafi Islam. Years later, only once fully Islamised, these Papuan youths are then returned to Papua as Muslim missionaries. Those who have escaped tell of harsh conditions and cruel punishments. Investigative journalist Michael Bachelard believes the number of children affected is in the thousands.

They're taking our children
Michael Bachelard, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 2013
"A six-month Good Weekend investigation has confirmed that children, possibly in their thousands, have been enticed away over the past decade or more with the promise of a free education. In a province where the schools are poor and the families poorer still, no-cost schooling can be an irresistible offer.
"But for some of these children, who may be as young as five, it's only when they arrive that they find out they have been recruited by 'pesantren', Islamic boarding schools . . .

"These schools have one aim: to send their graduates back to Christian-majority Papua to spread their muscular form of Islam.

"Ask the 100 Papuan boys and girls at the Daarur Rasul school outside Jakarta what they want to be when they grow up and they shout, "Ustad! Ustad! [religious teacher]." . . .

Papuan children taken to Jakarta to be converted to Islam
Michael Bachelard, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2014

This report includes video footage of interviews with two young Papuan boys who had escaped the pesantren and made their way back to Papua, scarred and confused. They report forced conversions, harsh conditions in captivity and cruel punishments.

"Their story is more evidence that Christian children are being taken from West Papua and converted to Islam - a practice officially denied after being revealed in Fairfax Media's Good Weekend magazine last year. It also makes clear for the first time that knowledge of the practice reaches high into the upper echelons of Indonesia's political elite. . .

"On arrival at the port in Jakarta, Demianus says the group was taken to a nearby mosque. The children were made to dress in Islamic clothes and taught to say the 'syahadat', the prayer to convert them to Islam. From then on, Demianus was told, his name would be 'Usman'. His original name was 'haram,' or forbidden, the clerics told him.

"From the port, the children were taken to different Islamic boarding schools - pesantrens - in Jakarta and the nearby city of Bogor. . .

"As the ethnic Melanesian Christian majority in West Papua is gradually outnumbered both economically and socially by migration from other parts of Indonesia, Papuans see the removal and Islamisation of children as a direct assault on their identity.

"But a Muslim bloc within Indonesia's national human rights organisation, Komnas HAM, has made it difficult for the body to mount a full investigation of the issues raised by Fairfax Media - including the existence of a small but active network of agents and middlemen who seek out vulnerable children and bring them to pesantren. It's unclear if these men are paid for their work, or who might be funding it, but there is a suspicion that oil money from Saudi Arabia may play a role."

According to one of the traffickers, "All the children are Christian, [and they are] destined for conversion."


Finally, the following piece in the Melbourne AGE not only sets out the appalling situation faced by Papuans, but recommends policy changes.

Time for Jakarta to afford Papuans the dignity they deserve
By Bobby Anderson, The Age, 4 July 2014

Papua has "the last great remaining tracts of virgin forest in south-east Asia. Its wealth in coal, gold, copper, oil, gas and fisheries is colossal. A single mine there is Indonesia’s largest taxpayer.

"Migrants from across the archipelago flock to Papua, which hosts the highest economic growth rate in Indonesia. They fill unplanned cities like Jayapura and Timika to bursting; they drive the machinery, staff the hotels and shops, and work the plantations that are transforming once-virgin land into deceitfully green circuit boards.

"Papua's wealth does not, however, accrue in the lives of its daughters and sons. The indigenous population generally lacks access to health and education services. Papuans have the lowest life expectancies in Indonesia, the highest maternal and child mortality rates, the lowest educational levels, the highest rates of tuberculosis, and an HIV infection rate that is 10 times the national average and climbing. They are the poorest, the sickest, and the quickest to die. . .

". . . Papua’s indigenous population is perhaps 2 million: 1.25 per cent of the population of Indonesia. The next president may have a hard time diverting attention to Papua. But he needs to. A ministerial-level government development body that assumes responsibility for myriad national, provincial, and district-level services is needed in order to centralise health, education, and other services at provincial levels. This entity would play a co-ordinating role in leading other urgent reforms: curbs on migration are urgently needed, and some migrants may need to be sent back. A moratorium on pemekaran [the splitting of territories] is required. The religious foundations providing health and education services need to be legitimised and funded. The corporate social responsibility portfolios of companies involved in extractive industries require oversight from and synchronisation with such an entity, in order that Papua’s wealth may accrue palpably in Papuan lives.

"This entity must also issue sensitive policy recommendations: on the legality of separatist symbols, on the Papuanisation of the police, on lifting unofficial curbs on Papuan military enrolments, and on changing the military’s territorial command structure, which is completely inappropriate for Indonesia’s modern defence environment. The insurgency is so small that it is a law-and-order issue.

"Such an entity would report to the governors of Papua and Papua Barat, as well as to the president. It would be staffed by technocrats, and driven by Papuans. My experience shows that for every few no-show civil servants, there exists a responsible one. Papua’s rural schools may be absent of teachers, but they also host unpaid volunteers. Such people not only need inclusion, they need authority.

"This entity would also play a role in reconciliation. . .

"But the dead need naming. Suffering must be acknowledged. For Jakarta, this is the least expensive step, and the most politically costly. In the absence of such a truth-telling exercise, fictitious claims will remain credible, especially given government restrictions on foreign reporters. Many a politician naively hopes that this national wound will heal itself. It will not. Papua’s Memoria Passionis compounds over time.
Or the incoming president can ignore the issue. Perhaps the problem will fade; not with a bang, but a whimper. Immigration has already rendered Papuans a minority in their land, and more migrants arrive daily.

The longstanding failure of health and education services in indigenous areas will hasten their demise. Many believe that this is policy. Or perhaps Papuan frustration will foment into a new insurgency, and the current amateurs will be sidelined by an entity that can raise funds and access quality weapons: an era of roadside bombs and burning fuel depots.

"If the next president is serious about Papua, then he must treat Papuans with both the seriousness they deserve and the dignity that they have been denied. For there exist no military tactics that can defeat insurrections in human hearts: another way is needed."

Bobby Anderson works on health, education, and governance projects in eastern Indonesia and travels frequently in Papua province.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)