Slow-motion genocide for West Papua ethnic minorities and Christians

A report by the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission blames Indonesian authorities for intimidation, beatings, torture, kidnappings and murders in West Papua, a once predominantly Christian province. According to the report, there is “a movement for Muslims from Indonesia to replace Papuans,” who are mostly Christians.


Manokwari (AsiaNews) – A new report documents allegations of military and police intimidation, beatings and torture, kidnapping and murder against West Papua’s ethnic minorities, political dissidents and Christians.

The report was prepared by the Brisbane Catholic Justice and Peace Commission’s Shadow Human Rights Fact Finding Mission to West Papua, following a visit to the province last month.

Although the report itself has not yet been released, The Catholic Leader has published excerpts, noting illegal actions by Muslim militants and Indonesian police in the once predominantly Christian province.

It describes Indonesia’s actions as a “slow motion genocide” designed to “replace the Christian religion with Islam”.

It also slammed the Indonesian government for carving up “the land” and giving “it for exploitation to some 50 multinational companies”.

The report author Josephite Sister Susan Connelly was accompanied to West Papua by Brisbane archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission executive officer Peter Arndt.

During their fact-finding mission, the two interviewed more than 250 community leaders in Japapura, Merauke, Timika and Sorong.

Sr Connelly likened her visit to West Papua to “stepping back twenty years when I first went to East Timor”.

During her stay, she found “The same oppressive security presence everywhere, the same suspicion, bewilderment, frustration and sadness, the same fear, the same seemingly groundless hope” among Papuans.

The “Authorities want to close down any Papuan efforts to promote discussion about self-determination, and they have applied a military response to deal with the irrepressible desire of a large number of Papuans to promote their cause for freedom.”

Based on his interviews across West Papua, Mr Arndt identified the instigators of alleged human rights violations as members of the Indonesian army, including Kopassus, the police, including a special counter insurgency unit, Detachment 88, and Indonesia’s intelligence agency, BIN.

“Even demonstrations about social issues such as access to education get broken up by authorities,” he said.

When Indonesia became independent in 1945, western Papua remained under Dutch control. In 1969, the territory was incorporated by Indonesia after a vote denounced by many as manipulated by Jakarta. Papuan separatists have rejected the annexation and insist on independence.

In the 1970s, ethnic Papuans accounted for 96 per cent of the population. Today they are a minority, 48 per cent, because of the rapid migration of Indonesians from other more populated islands such as Java. 

What is more, according to the report, there was “a movement for Muslims from Indonesia to replace Papuans in every sector”. To reach this goal, “Many mosques are being built everywhere”. At the same time, settlers “burn down the Papuan houses. They are recruited as illegal loggers. Their camps and logging are well protected by the military” who “are certainly killing the people”.

To illustrate this point, the Justice and Peace Commission lists a series of crimes committed by the authorities in 2015: a young wealthy businessman was poisoned; a Papuan woman activist was arrested for holding a prayer service in support of an international conference in London; 27 Papuan palm oil workers were tortured by the Indonesian army’s special force Kopassus after they complained that they had not been paid for two months; and an 18-year-old man, son of a local prayer meeting leader, was killed.

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