The conflict in Tanah Papua (West Papua) has cost the lives of thousands of people since the late 1960s. A former Dutch colony placed under United Nations administration in 1962, the region was unilaterally annexed by Indonesia and since then has experienced a pro-independence insurgency. In 1969 West Papua was formally incorporated into Indonesia, after a widely discredited ballot in which only about 1,000 Papuans voted from a population of 700,000.
In February 2012, the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee addressed the situation in West Papua in a statement expressing concern about the militarization of the region, economic exploitation of indigenous Papuans’ natural resources by others, the impact of transmigration, under-development and lack of employment and economic opportunities for indigenous Papuans, gross and systematic violations of human rights (including arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings), and violent suppression of indigenous Papuans’ aspirations for self-determination in their own land. These matters have been testified to by WCC member church the Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua (GKITP) and partners in the International Coalition for Papua.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has promised to stop disproportionate use of force and human rights abuses against indigenous Papuans by Indonesian security personnel, and to pursue dialogue, reconciliation and development in West Papua, but hopes of an improvement in the situation for indigenous Papuans have not been realized.
According to reports from West Papua, the situation has recently deteriorated markedly. In mass arrests in May and June 2016, more than 3,000 people are reported to have been arrested during peaceful protests in Papuan cities and in several other cities in Indonesia. Most of those arrested were subsequently released, but some were reported to have been tortured during detention. Most recently, a further 1,400 West Papuans were reported to have been arrested on 15 June.
Violations of West Papuans’ freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and other rights and freedoms are reported on an almost daily basis. But Indonesia routinely prevents access to the territory by independent human rights experts and journalists.
The WCC central committee, meeting in Trondheim, Norway, 22-28 June 2016, therefore:
- Calls on all WCC member churches to pray and act in support of the witness of the churches – especially the Evangelical Christian Church in Tanah Papua, and through the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI), the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) – for justice and peace in the region.
- Requests that a solidarity visit to West Papua by an international ecumenical delegation be organized as soon as possible, to demonstrate the ecumenical movement’s accompaniment of the churches in the region, to hear the voices of the victims of violence and human rights violations, and to pursue the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this context.