The World Council of Churches (WCC) Executive Committee recently issued a statement expressing concern over the escalation of violence in Tanah Papua, Indonesia. They urged the Indonesian authorities to stop the killings of civilians at the hands of armed forces and protect the rights of Papuan people.
The statement was released in a WCC Executive Committee meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, which took place from 14 to 17 February.
The statement was issued in the context of Tanah Papua experiencing increasing conflict during the past months. The tensions between indigenous Papuans and Indonesian police led to the killings of several civilians in October last year.
The events in October involved a crackdown on a peaceful gathering of Papuans, who were faced with force by the Indonesian military, brutally beating and killing civilians.
The statement highlights that the “tragic escalation in tension once again poses a wake-up call to Indonesia and the international community.” It insists that the “grievances of the Papuan people must be addressed without further delay.”
In Tanah Papua, the indigenous population has suffered economic deprivation since the times of the authoritarian Suharto regime (1965-98), who encouraged transmigration programmes turning Papuans into a minority in their own land.
“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,” reads the statement.
The statement called the 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.”
The WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs has been monitoring the situation in the region and has organized solidarity visits to Tanah Papua.