PASTORAL LETTER WEST PAPUA COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN THE CONTEXT OF EASTER; REMEMBERING THE PASSION AND THE STORY THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
“The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no
one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk
uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57:1-2).
In April, Christians commemorate the Story of Jesus’ Passion and the Work of Salvation in
Christ. We, the Church Leaders in the Land of Papua have recorded a number of incidents
that have resulted in the people of the Land of Papua carrying the cross of suffering
for 58 years due to the political policies of systemic racism of the Unitary State Government of
the Republic of Indonesia. Year after year, the Papuan people mourn their deep, prolonged
sorrows. The two important Christian celebrations, Christmas and Easter, are never
celebrated peacefully. With our eyes fixed on the Cross of Christ, We have recorded just a small
part of the suffering of the Papuan people as follows:
- The deployment of Army (TNI) and Police troops
From 2019 to 2021, non-organic army and Police troops continued to be deployed to the Land
of Papua after the Papuan people carried out peaceful demonstrations as a form of protest
against the systemic political racism of the Indonesian rulers. The repressive action of the State
towards Papuans started specifically against Papuan students in the Papuan student dormitory
in Surabaya, Indonesia.
During this three year period, the deployment of Army and Police troops to the Land of Papua
totalled 2,603 people. The number of deployed troops, the dates of deployment and the
destination of the troops are as follows:
a) Deployment of the Indonesian National Police forces between August 12, 2018 to March
9, 2019 included 200 BRIMOB (Mobile Brigade) who arrived in Timika. Their destination
was the conflict areas of Nduga, Puncak Papua and Puncak Jaya. 100 personnel(1
company) joined the Papua Task Force (SATGAS) in the Nduga region.
b) On Tuesday, December 4, 2018, 153 Police and Army joint personnel were sent to
Nduga Papua as special forces to face the TPNPB / OPM.
c) On Saturday 9 March 2019, 600 additional soldiers from the 431 Battalion Kostrad
Makassar and Zipur 8 Batallion Makassar arrived in Timika with the destination of
d) On February 17, 2021, 100 personnel of Special forces (Brimob) from East Nusa
Tenggara (NTT) were released by the NTT Regional Police Chief to be sent to Intan Jaya. 2
Hundreds of NTT Police Special Forces personnel will be seconded to Intan Jaya over the
next six months. Their assignment is to tighten security in Intan Jaya.
e) On February 17, 2021, the Jambi Regional Police Chief released 100 personnel of their
Special forces (Brimob) to be assigned to Puncak Jaya.
f) On March 10, 2021, 1,350 Army personnel (TNI) arrived at the Papuan port of Jayapura.
The military leadership in Papua said the presence of 1,350 new soldiers are to replace
the Mechanical Raider Battalion 413 / Bremoro, Yonif Raider 312 / KH, and Raider 100 /
PS Yonif Raider who are part of the Task Force Operations at the border between
Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
The conflict between the security forces and TPNPB in Nduga Regency between December 2018
and March 2021 has resulted in:
- The death of more than 480 civilians, most of whom died in the location where they fled
- 34,461 people were displaced from their homes and sought refuge in the forest or fled
to Jayawijaya, Lani Jaya, Timika, Yahukimo and other surrounding Regencies.
- The houses of civilians have been burned and destroyed.
- A number of houses of worship, healthcare and education facilities have been taken
over and are being used as Army and Police posts in Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya and
The impact of conflict in Intan Jaya has resulted in:
- 10 civilians shot dead by the Indonesian National Police detailed as follows:
a. The shooting of 2 servants of God in Intan Jaya; Pastor Jeremiah Zanembani on
September 9, 2020 by a member of the army (TNI) and on October 2020 an officer of
the Catholic Church (Catechist) Rufinus Tipagau was shot dead by members of the TNI.
b. On February 15, 2021 three civilians, Janus, Justinus and Soni Bagau (Puskesmas), were
shot dead by the TNI in Sugapa.
c. On February 27, 2021, Donatus Similar (who was physically disabled, mute and deaf)
was shot by the TNI.
d. On March 6, 2021, Melianus Nayagau, a young male junior high school student was
e. There were also victims and displacement of civilians in Puncak Papua District. A student
was shot by a member of the TNI as he returned to school. Atanius Murib and Amanus
Murib survived the disaster of death.
- More than 1000 people were displaced in Intan Jaya. They fled to the courtyard of the
Pastoral House and Convent of the Bilogay Catholic Church. About 300 families fled to
Nabire. Hundreds of heads of families fled to Paniai, Puncak Papua and surrounding
During the enactment of special autonomy laws in Papua, Papua has been surrounded from all
directions, land, sea and air. There has been an increase in territorial units. There has been the
addition of new Kodam (Provinsial Military Command), Korem (Area Military Command), Kodim
(Regency Military Command), Batallions, Yonif Combat Units and increased combat assistance
provided from Military District Commands to the Air Force. For the Army, there are plans over
the period 2021-2024 to build 4 Regency Military Commands in Lanny Jaya, Tolikara, Star
Mountains and Nduga Regencies. There has also been an increase in the Navy: Lantamal,
Koarmada (Command Armada) III. While for the Air Force there will be an addition of
Pangkoopsau (Commander of the Air Force TNI Operations Command), Airbases and Radar.
At the same time the addition of infrastructure and personnel are also occurring in the police
force. There has been additions to the Regional Police, City Police, Departmental Police, and
local Police Posts. Also the police spcial forces troops, Brimob, have decentralised their
Headquarters to Companies so that they are spread throughout the Land of Papua. Active army
and police members are also the main suppliers of weapons and bullets to TPN / OPM.
As well as the addition to these three forces, the TNI headquarters also opened new
Kogabwilhan (Coordination of the Defence Region) at the end of 2019. Kogabwilhan III is
headquartered in Timika, Papua. This agency now determines all military operations in Papua
and is bringing in thousands of troops.
- Politics of systemic racism
The Government of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia has not learnt any lessons or
made a persuasive approach to respond to the peaceful and open resistance protests held by
Papuans in response to the racist incidents against Papuan students in Surabaya August 2019.
Racist speech about Papuans are still being uttered by state officials, political figures and
even Indonesian civil society. At the start of 2021, Natalius Pigay experienced racist speech
from the Chairman of the Supporting Group of President Jokowi, Ambrose
Nababan reported by Abu Janda, from Jokowi’s Buzzer team.
Racist views and policies also came out of the mouth of the former head of BIN (State
Intelligence Agency) Hendropriyono, who wanted to resolve the problems in Papua by forcibly
moving 2 million Papuans to Manado so they can become “Indonesian People.”
On March 26, 2021 racist statements were made by supporters of Persija Jakarta at the Stadium
Kanjuruan Malang, East Java, towards Patrick Wanggai, the Papuan player who with Makassar
PSM after he scored a goal against Persija Jakarta.
On March 8, 2021, the Chief of Police in Malang, Sr. Comr. Leonardus Harapanua Simarmata
Permata committed racist speech and intimidation towards Papuan students who held
demonstrations in Malang, East Java. From his mouth, the police chief stated that the blood
of Papuan students was ‘halal’ so therefore they could be shot if they dared to enter the
property of the Malang Police Station.
The deployment of security forces to Papua without the approval of the Peoples Representative
Council of Indonesia (DPR-RI), the forced expansion of the number of districts and provinces in
Papua, and the efforts to impose an extension of Special Autonomy funds by the Indonesian
Government in Papua is proof of the racist character of the Indonesian rulers in Papua. The
Rulers and the Indonesian people still look at Papuans as second class citizens in Indonesia and
liken them to certain types of animals. Papuan people at all levels have experienced Indonesia’s
racial politics for 58 years.
- Stigmatization of OPM as a terrorist organisation
On Monday March 26, 2021, during a hearing with the former House of Representatives
Commission III, the Papua Regional Police Chief who currently serves as Head of the BNPT
(Terrorism Management Agency), Commissioner General Boy Rafli Amar conveyed the need to
raise support through cross Ministry, Departmental and Institutional discussions to push for
the National Liberation Army for Papuan Freedom (TPN / OPM) to be equated with other
terrorist groups in Indonesia. OPM is fighting for what is in the preamble of the Constitution.
The basis of the creation of Indonesia in 1945 “that independence is the right of all the people
and because of this colonialism must be abolished worldwide because it is not in accordance
with humanity and fair justice.” The struggle of the OPM and the Papuan people is also part of
upholding the Declaration of Universal Human Rights December 10, 1948 and the International
Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
- Violations of civil and political rights
We have witnessed the security forces continue to contract the democratic space. They have
limited the space for Papuans to convey aspirations peacefully without any intimidation.
Demonstrations to reject Papuan Special Autonomy Volume 2 were forcibly disbanded in
several cities in Papua and in Indonesia including Manado, Makassar, Jakarta, Malang and
Yogyakarta. Likewise, those organising the Listening to Opinion Meetings (RDP) on special
autonomy by the Papuan People’s Assembly were intercepted, terrorized and arrested by
security forces in Merauke, Wamena and several other districts.
Throughout 2020 there were 42 cases involving: the right to life, the right to freedom of
expression and gathering, the right to security, the right to a more prosperous life and the
rights to a decent job.
We have also recorded the flood of migrants who continue to arrive in the land of Papua.
From 2010 to 2020 according to the population census data of 2020, the population of Papua
increased by 1,470,000 with a total population in Papua in 2020 of 4,300,000.
- Deforestation and environmental crime
Between March and May 2020 satellite imagery found that 1,488 ha of land had been
deforested for Oil Palm. The largest area is in Manokwari (372 ha), then the Merauke region
(372 ha), Boven Digoel (222 Ha) and Bintuni (110 ha). We have read the Report of the
Indonesian Monitoring Coalition (this coalition consists of 11 NGOS) which shows that
deforestation in Papua has greatly increased during the administration of President Jokowi.
Over the last 20 years 663.433 ha of the forest area was damaged; 71% of this deforestation
occurred between 2011 and 2019. The average deforestation rate in Papua is around 34,000 ha
per year; The peak was in 2015 with 89,000 ha deforested. During the 2015-2019 (Jokowi I
Cabinet I) Papua lost 298,600 ha. The biggest deforestation took place in the Merauke region
(123,000 Ha), Boven Digul (51,600 ha), Nabire (32,900 ha), Bintuni Bay (33,400 ha), Sorong
(33,400 ha) and Fakfak (31,700 ha).
The Indonesian government has also offered the company of Elon Musk a location for a rocket
launch site. Responding to this plan, the Biak Customary Council and the owners of the cultural
rights of the land carried out open protests. This launch site would cause destruction of the
environment for the community, and the submission and emptying of customary land. A
minimum area of 700 ha of empty land is needed for the ‘rocket launch’ site and other strategic
Based on the reality that we have described, and in order for the Land of Papua to heal and
become peaceful, we, the Church leaders in Papua request the following:
- The UN Commissioner for Human Rights should visit the Land of Papua to carry out an
investigation of human rights violations in Papua.
- The involvement of an independent team as a third party to carry out accompaniment,
health services, education and other needs of the residents living as refugees or those
who are victims of violence in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak Papua, and Timika.
- That President Joko Widodo keeps the promise that he made on September 30, 2019
that the State is ready to “dialogue with the Papuan Pro-Referendum group, ULMWP.”
- The Indonesian government should carry out a dialogue with ULMWP to find a solution
to the problem of Papua in the same way as the government of SBY (Yusuf Kala)
resolved problems with GAM and Aceh mediated by a third country.
- The leaders of the Melanesian Sphere Group (MSG) should accept ULMWP as a full
member of the MSG at the MSG summit in April 2021.6
- Papuans should pray and fast from 11 April 2021 for the healing of the land and people
of Papua and for the unity of all cultural leaders, church leaders, government leaders,
NGO leaders, women leaders and youth leaders.
- The Papuan People, starting from their own family, should practice principles of a
peaceful life and avoid things that can destroy their future. They should protect and
guide all of their family members in a responsible way.
- Prayer and fasting support from the people and church leaders in the Pacific.
Finally, we would like to express our respect and thanks to the cultural leaders, church leaders,
the media, government leaders, communities and academics in the Pacific region, and to all
parties involved in international solidarity for the People of Papua from Africa, Australia,
Europe, America and Indonesian Civil Society who have demonstrated true solidarity in the long
journey of suffering of Gods People on the Land of Papua.
Jayapura-Papua, 2 April 2021
West Papua Council of Churches
Pdt. Benny. Giay
Pdt. Andrikus. Mofu
Pdt. Dorman. Wandikbo