Authorities in Indonesia opened fire on a peaceful prayer meeting in Timika, in the region of West Papua, and arrested up to 15 people. The incident occurred on 5th April, when thousands of West Papuan independence activists, having marched through the town, gathered to pray for an independence referendum and full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to be given to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).
The authorities tore down flags of different Melanesian countries and arrested up to 15 people, many of whom were also beaten up. Following international pressure, two now remain in custody. Yus Wenda is facing a 32-month prison sentence, whilst the rally organiser, Steven Itlay, has been given life imprisonment for “treason”.
Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission have called for Steve Itlay’s release.
Further protests have since been carried out across the West Papuan region, leading to more arrests.
In 1986, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea formed the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Indonesia became an associate member in 2015 to act as the official representative for the West Papuan people. Whilst the move was greeted as a step forward by the ULMWP, its supporters are determined to press ahead for full membership of the MSG and an independence referendum.
Benny Wenda, West Papuan Independence Leader and spokesperson for the ULMWP, comments, “It is our ancestral birthright as Melanesian people to be welcomed into the Melanesian family, not as foreigners but as full and true Melanesians.” He adds, “It is our fundamental right as human beings to peacefully exercise our self-determination, and we call for our right to self-determination to be exercised freely in an Internationally Supervised Vote (Independence Referendum).”
- Pray for the region of West Papua and for Indonesia. Pray for Indonesia to allow freedom of speech for West Papua citizens, and for the freedom for Christians to meet and worship together.
- Pray for Indonesia’s influence in this region, especially as Islam is becoming more the focus of teaching in schools. Pray that Indonesia will allow freedom of belief for all West Pauans, and not push for Islam.
- Pray for peace in this region as the West Papuan people push for independence, Pray that Indonesia will listen to their call and move peacefully towards independence.
- Pray for many in Indonesia to encounter Christ in life changing ways.
2 Corinthians 3 vs 17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”