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Statement on the Situation in Tanah Papua (Indonesia)

The WCC Executive Committee expresses its deep concern for the deteriorating situation regarding human rights violations in Tanah Papua.

17 February 2012

WCC Executive Committee
14-17 February 2012
Bossey, Switzerland

1.       The political and jurisdictional landscape of Indonesia has changed in many positive ways since the country started experiencing a democratization process in the late 1990s. However, the political and human rights situation in Tanah Papua have not changed. Over the past several years the Papuan people have been demanding freedom of expression and the right to self determination, but the demands for their legitimate rights have been continuously suppressed by the Indonesian authorities. Despite the fact that Tanah Papua is one of the richest regions of the world in terms of natural resources, the people of Papua have not benefited from its rich resources; rather, they have suffered from underdevelopment as well as a lack of protection of their economic, social and cultural rights.

2.       The Papuans have been expressing their grievances about the underdevelopment of their region, economic impoverishment, lack of adequate facilities for health care and education, blatant violation of human rights, and exploitation of natural resources by Indonesian and multinational conglomerates that causes environmental degradation. The Papuans have been deeply concerned about the lack of job opportunities for Indigenous People. Employers, whether it be the government or private business, prefer Indonesians who have migrated to Papua above indigenous Papuans. Thus, where transmigration brings new economic activities, the original inhabitants of Tanah Papua lose their land, cultural identity and are becoming a marginalized community in their own land. Various human rights organizations have reported that the Papuans are still subject to torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and unfair treatment by the Indonesian military and police force. The gross and systematic violations of human rights due to the rampant militarization processes in the region have denied the Papuan people's right to live peacefully in their ancestral land.

3.       A Special Autonomy Law no. 21/2001 was introduced in Papua in response to the grievances of the local people with an aim to solve the problem of Papua's political status through peaceful means, respecting human rights and human dignity. However, the fact remains that the Special Autonomy Law has not been consistently implemented by the Government of Indonesia. As a result, indigenous Papuans still feel that they have been unfairly treated by the Indonesian Government and treated inhumanely by the security forces. It is in this situation that civil society groups and the churches, which together represent the overwhelming majority of Papuan opinion, have united around a single intermediary goal: to reject the Special Autonomy Law. They represent the majority opinion of the Papuans: that the right to self-determination is the ultimate solution for the future of indigenous Papuans to live in peace with dignity and freedom in their own land.

4.       The aspirations of the majority of Papuan people for their right to self-determination have been consistently expressed over the years. The Papuan National Consensus Collective presented a petition to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010 to put in place arrangements for the free exercise of the right to self-determination, so that the indigenous peoples of Tanah Papua can decide democratically on their own future in accordance with international standards of human rights, the principles of International Law and the Charter of the United Nations. They also urged the United Nations General Assembly to intervene in Papua with a Permanent Observer Mission to oversee the Referendum.

5.       The situation in Tanah Papua has deteriorated as the region has been again witnessing an escalation of violence during the past months. The conflicts and tensions between the indigenous Papuans and the Indonesian police led to the killing of several civilians in October last year. The crackdown of a peaceful gathering of Papuan people involved the use of disproportionate force by the Indonesian security forces, brutally beating and killing unarmed civilians on 19 October 2011. This tragic escalation in tension once again poses a wake-up call to Indonesia and the international community, insisting that the grievances of the Papuan people must be addressed without further delay.

6.       The WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) has been monitoring the situation in Tanah Papua over recent years. Several visits by staff and solidarity teams have been organized by the WCC in the past years; the last such visit was in July 2008 as part of a WCC's Living Letters Team visit. The leadership of the WCC member church in Papua, the Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKI-TP), has been requesting the WCC to accompany the people in Papua in their struggle for human rights and human dignity and their quest for peace and security. A number of churches and ecumenical organizations related to the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), have been involved in advocacy concerning the Papuan's struggle for peace with justice and human rights. The churches in Tanah Papua, irrespective of their denominational identities, have been concerned about the situation and convey messages of peace.

7.       The churches in Indonesia and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) have remained in constant support of a peaceful resolution of the problems in Tanah Papua. On several occasions the PGI and its member churches condemned the violence and human rights violations in Tanah Papua. The PGI issued a statement in October last year condemning the violence against the Papuans and asked for appropriate actions to set up immediately a Jakarta-Papua dialogue as a commitment to resolve the acts of violence in Papua. Since the situation in Tanah Papua became more tense in October 2011, the CCIA/WCC has been in consultation with the leadership of the PGI, the central committee members of WCC from Indonesia and the CCA about the deteriorating situation in Tanah Papua and finding ways to respond to the critical situation of human rights violations, especially ways for ecumenical advocacy in Tanah Papua.

8.       The World Council of Churches believes that on the way to establishing peace and justice, it is imperative to overcome conflicts, violence and human rights violations in order to establish peace and security as well as the right to life and human dignity for all human beings who are created in the image of God. As members of the community that proclaims Christ as the embodiment of peace, we are called to uphold the values of peace with justice and carry the message of the divine gift of peace in any context of violence and conflict. We believe that the sins of violence and conflict divide people and communities and deny their human rights and human dignity. The scriptures teach us that humanity is created in the likeness of God and is graced with dignity and rights. The recognition of this dignity and these rights is central to our understanding of justice and peace. The message of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation reminds us of the fact that "we witness the struggle for freedom, justice and human rights of the people in many contexts where brave people struggle without global attention". The context of Tanah Papua is one among many that warrants our attention.

Against this background, the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, 14-17 February 2012:

A.      Expresses its deep concern for the deteriorating situation regarding human rights violations in Tanah Papua;

B.      Requests Indonesian authorities to take necessary steps to release the political prisoners, to lift the ban on peaceful assembly of Papuans and to demilitarize Tanah Papua;

C.      Urges the Indonesian government to initiate necessary steps to enter into dialogue with indigenous Papuan people and to take adequate measures to protect their rights and to provide them with their basic needs and rights as the original inhabitants of Tanah Papua;

D.      Urges the Indonesian Government to ensure that the Indonesian armed forces stop the killing and the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to the Papuan people and the abrogation of their human rights;

E.       Commends the churches and ecumenical partners who are engaged in global advocacy for peace, security and human rights of the Papuans;

F.       Calls on WCC member churches to provide long term accompaniment and also to be engaged in advocacy on peace and security for all Papuans in their struggle for the right to life and right to dignity;

G.      Prays for the people and the churches of Tanah Papua as they continue to be engaged in their prophetic witness for peace, reconciliation and hope.