Church call for independence for West Papua

The Anglican Church of Melanesia has lent its support for independence of West Papua from Indonesia. A consultation convened by the Church of Melanesia and the Pacific Council of Churches last month at St Barnabas’ Cathedral in Honiara in the Solomon Islands pledged to “…actively support the political independence struggle of the people of West Papua” and to “…commit to advocating their inherent right to gainful political self-determination and true freedom” a statement released from the provincial press office said. Following Indonesia’s independence in 1949 from the Netherlands, the western half of New Guinea remained under Dutch control. However in 1961 Indonesia invaded the island, prompting the UN to hold  plebiscite. The Indonesian military chose 1000 tribal elders to serve as electors for the referendum, and the group voted unanimously for incorporation into Indonesia. However,   Papuan nationalists rejected the decision and established the Free Papua Movement (OPM), waging a low level guerilla war against the Indonesian occupation. The church group called for the Solomon Island’s government to recognize the guerillas as the legitimate rulers of the province and to advocate for Papuan independence in international forums. The communique from the meeting affirmed that was “morally and ethically wrong to remain silent when our brothers and sisters from West Papua are suffering from suppression and human rights atrocities under an oppressive colonial ruler at our very own doorstep. The Melanesian Region, the Pacific and the World at large need to speak out against Indonesian oppression of West Papua and call upon their leaders and government to ‘let God’s people and nation of West Papua go’.”

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