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As protests escalate across West Papua in Indonesia this week, the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) has called on member churches to pray for justice and peace in the region.

In a statement released yesterday, the PCC condemned “institutional racism against the indigenous people of West (Tanah) Papua,” and reiterated calls for an urgent investigation into ongoing human rights abuses.

The protests were sparked by an incident in the Javanese city of Surabaya on Saturday. Indonesian authorities raided a university dormitory and arrested dozens of Papuan students over allegations that an Indonesian flag had been damaged by one of them.

During a long standoff leading up to the arrests, nationalist groups gathered and called the Papuan students “monkeys” and other racial slurs, demanding authorities “kick the Papuans out.” Many of the racist taunts were captured on video and were seen throughout West Papua, sparking anger and large demonstrations in major cities.

“In the context of the Pacific family, to call our Melanesian sisters and brothers in West Papua ‘Monkeys’ is to call all Pacific Islanders ‘Monkeys,’” said the PCC statement.

“We call on Indonesia to immediately allow access to Papua by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN mandate holders.”

The call comes after PCC General Secretary, Rev. James Bhagwan visited West Papua as part of a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation earlier this year. It is understood to be the first time that such a large and diverse international delegation has visited the territory since its integration into Indonesia in 1969.

During the visit, the WCC delegation received a joint appeal from the leaders of four churches in West Papua calling for “international ecumenical support for a comprehensive political dialogue for the resolution of the situation in Papua.”

In response, the WCC Executive Committee released a statement of concern and solidarity for West Papua, supporting the church leaders’ joint appeal for a comprehensive political dialogue, and calling on the Government of Indonesia to allow access to human rights organisations and journalists.

The statement also invited all WCC member churches “to pray and act in support of the witness of the churches in West Papua – and that of PGI, PCC and CCA – for justice and peace in the region.”

The Uniting Church in Australia is a member of the Pacific Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

Image: Totem standing on the site of the first church in West Papua ~1855 | Marcus Campbell

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan and UnitingWorld National Director Dr Sureka Goringe have written to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the human rights conduct of the Philippine government’s so-called ‘war on drugs.’

The letter expresses concern over “gross human rights abuses that continue to take place in the Philippines” in the form of widespread extrajudicial killings carried out during police anti-drug operations since July 2016. The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) supports a joint statement made by 38 member states of the Human Rights Council in June, which urges the Philippine Government to allow an independent UN investigation into the killings.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines estimates there have been more than 13,000 extrajudicial killings linked to the anti-drug campaign. The Philippine National Police say less than 4,000 drug suspects have died in “legitimate police operations” from July 2016 to January 2018.

UnitingWorld is in regular contact with UCA partner church, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who have sent a word of thanks for UCA solidarity in their advocacy efforts.

Please continue to pray for our partners, human rights defenders and an end to the killings in the Philippines.

21 July 2016

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and UnitingWorld are concerned about the deteriorating political situation in Zimbabwe, as expressed in a joint statement from church leaders to the World Council of Churches (WCC). UCA President Stuart McMillan has called on the members of the UCA to pray for Zimbabwe and the work of the Church there.

“We cannot ignore the plight of the people of Zimbabwe, millions of whom are struggling to secure  reliable sources of food and income, and are increasingly denied their basic human rights,” said Mr McMillan.

“We pray for our partner the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and the work of their development and relief agency MeDRA, and all those working to see justice for Zimbabwean people. We will continue to pray, speak out and act alongside our partner as they work to overcome the huge challenges they face.”

WCC statement:


Church leaders in Zimbabwe expressed their concern for their country’s political, social and economic meltdown that has caused increasing civic unrest and violence over the past month.

In a joint statement from eight churches and community organizations, church leaders said they are “concerned about intra-party conflicts that are distracting the government from dealing with real economic and social issues that are affecting the country.”

They called upon the Zimbabwe government to listen to the cries of citizens who are suffering. “There is a need to act justly and mercifully on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged in our nation,” the statement read.

As church and community leaders, they condemned brutality by law enforcement agencies on citizens. “The citizens’ constitutional right to demonstrate and protest must be protected,” they stated. “In exercising this right, we implore citizens to always remain peaceful in their demonstrations.”

Zimbabwe is facing an unemployment rate of more than 80 percent; restrictions on imports that have crippled cross-border business, destroying livelihoods for thousands of Zimbabweans; unnecessary police roadblocks which are fueling corruption; and many other urgent issues.

“Given all this, citizens have lost confidence and trust in our government,” read the statement. “We call upon the government to immediately investigate and prosecute law enforcement agents who are alleged to have brutalized people.”

The government should urgently act and address these genuine concerns of the citizens to avoid total collapse of the state, urged church leaders.

“We call upon the church, which is the salt and light of this nation, to continue to pray and also to speak out prophetically against any unjust system, until we have a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe in which every citizen’s God-given and constitutional rights are respected,” the statement read. “May God grant us Zimbabweans the courage, faith and hope to face our challenges.”

Daily infringement of citizens’ rights and constant extortion at police road blocks have created a climate of fear in Zimbabwe, said Georges Lemopoulos, deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“We pray for the three million people in Zimbabwe who are food insecure, and we also pray for churches and community organizations there as they unite to help Zimbabweans reach a meaningful solution.”

Lemopoulos said the WCC stands ready to help amplify the voices of justice and peace in Zimbabwe. “The human costs are too great for us to ignore the plight of the people,” he said.

Article originally published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

Read More:

“Feed the world?” Just share the tools – blog on UnitingWorld’s work with MeDRA in Zimbabwe (10 March, 2016)

Churches bring strong voice for justice in Zimbabwe – WCC news (18 July, 2016)

28 June 2016

Amid reports of a deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua, a minute of support for Papuans was issued on 28 June during the closing day to a meeting in Trondheim, Norway, of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The WCC has followed the situation since before the 1969 incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia.

During peaceful protests of government policies in May and early June of this year, more than 3,000 people are said to have been placed under arrest. A further 1,400 West Papuans are reported to have been arrested on 15 June.

Calling on member churches to pray and act in support of Christian witness in the region, the Central Committee authorized an international ecumenical delegation to be sent “as soon as possible” in order to “hear the voices of victims of violence and human rights violations, and to pursue the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this context.”

Read more:

Minute on Human Rights Situation in West Papua (WCC)

A call to pray for our brothers and sisters in West Papua (UCA)


This press release was originally published by the World Council of Churches (WCC) of which the Uniting Church in Australia is a member

27 June 2016

The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has called the people of the Uniting Church to pray for our Papuan brothers and sisters in Christ as the Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua (Gereja Kristen Injili Di Tanah Papua ‘GKI-TP’) lead their people through troubled times.

“We ask for congregations across Australia to hold our partners in prayer as they lead their church towards God’s justice, peace and reconciliation”, said Mr McMillan. Mr McMillan was responding to a letter written to the Uniting Church in Australia and other international partners. In the letter, our partner the GKI-TP has condemned the increasing levels of political tension in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, and has asked for prayers and assistance from its international partner churches.

The GKI-TP outlines four issues it believes must be addressed to reduce political tension and avoid conflict in Papua:

1. Freedom of expression: Throughout May, more than 2000 people were arrested and arbitrarily detained across Papua, including the mass arrest of more than 1700 people in Jayapura for publicly stating their political views and requesting a dialogue with the Indonesian Government. The GKI-TP calls for a commitment to peaceful dialogue, the lifting of media restrictions and respect for freedom of expression.
2. The monopolisation of their region’s natural resources by transnational companies keeping the wealth out of the hands of indigenous Papuans and denying them the opportunity to determine their own development.
3. Alleged human rights violations including assassination, torture, rape and kidnapping, particularly directed against peaceful activists. GKI-TP is calling on the government to resolve cases of human rights violations through the independent national Human Rights Commission (KOMNAS HAM).
4. Greater respect for the ongoing debate in Papua regarding the history of its integration into Indonesia. The GKI-TP requests that the expression of their political views not result in violent crackdowns and unlawful arrests.

“The Uniting Church celebrates Indonesia’s cultural diversity through our extensive church partnerships with Indonesian churches, and that diversity has enriched the life of UCA widely as many Indonesians have found their home in our Uniting Church,” said Mr McMillan.

“However, we are deeply troubled by the situation in Papua as expressed by our partner church.

“We express solidarity with GKI-TP, in its ministry of peace and reconciliation, and in its call for all Papuans to be granted an effective voice in determining their own futures.

National Director for UnitingWorld Mr Rob Floyd said the Uniting Church in Australia greatly valued the courage and commitment of its church partners in Papua.

“The GKI-TP provide wonderful ministry in Papua often under the most difficult circumstances.”

Echoing the concerns raised by GKI-TP, Mr Floyd said, “We call on the Indonesian Government and all parties to make a commitment to peaceful dialogue, an end to violence and a respect for freedom of expression.”

– 27 June 2016

Read More

Read Stuart McMillan’s response to GKI-TP President, Rev Alberth Yoku

UnitingWorld’s Rev Dr Ji Zhang has written a Prayer for the People in the Land of Papua on the blog

Briefing Paper on UCA relations with Papua – 23 June 2016

World Council of Churches declares solidarity with Tanah Papua (West Papua) -28 June 2016