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Action in Europe

Published: Jul 30, 2007

Siegfried Z'llner and Feije Duim

Three kinds of organisations in Europe have a special interest in Papua.

Papuans fleeing Indonesian state violence have been coming to Europe for years. Especially in the Netherlands, a community of some 250 has developed. They have long been divided into two factions - one more radical, the other more church-oriented. But since the situation in Papua has gained momentum, Papuan efforts in the Netherlands have become more unified. The most effective lobby is organised by PaVo (Papuan Peoples). With an office in Utrecht, its representative Viktor Kaisiepo travels around the world, promoting the issues put up by the Papua Congress of 2000. PaVo maintains good relations with the Papua Congress and its Presidium, sharing its dream of independence. It also relates well (and lobbies together with) the human rights organisation in Papua, Elsham, sharing its dream of non-violent transformation and of Papuans one day living free of the fear of human rights abuse.

Activists form the second group. In Europe several well established and many smaller human rights groups are active on Papuan issues. Many became more active as they shifted attention from East Timor to Papua. Of course we have our branches of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, managing information and urging for action. But regional human rights organisations such as Watch Indonesia! and others are gaining in importance. The latter have been stimulated enormously by the advocacy abilities of the German West Papua Network (see box). The network gathers information and co-ordinates action, linking churches and human rights activists, and working together closely with Elsham. The Uniting Churches in the Netherlands (UCN) have also linked up. The network also has a close relation with the World Council of Churches (WCC), for instance to facilitate Papuan testimonies at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. All these organisations lobby for the right of Papuans to organise, to speak out, and to develop without fear of repression.

Churches, missions and development agencies, the more traditional partners of the largely Christian Papuans, make up the third group. Two of the most prominent are the German United Evangelical Mission VEM (Vereinigte Evangelische Mission) and the Dutch Global Ministries UCN. The most active European development agencies are the German (Protestant) Brot fuer die Welt, Dutch Icco (Protestant), Dutch Cordaid (Catholic) and the Franciscans, and the Dutch humanist development organisation Hivos. Since early 2001, Novib-Oxfam (general) and Justitia & Pax (Catholic) take a more active interest in the area. All these organisations are broadly interested in institutional and human resources development, socio-economic development, the environment, human rights, indigenous peoples issues and political advocacy. They often coordinate their actions. So the Dutch churches and Icco started some initiatives with the WCC, and others joined in. They tend to see Papua as an important issue within Indonesia, so that human rights are on their agenda but not independence. They support the efforts of Indonesian non-government organisations (NGOs) to work with Papuan ones.

Several smaller church bodies (at the parish level) in Germany and the Netherlands are involved in exchange programs with the Evangelical Christian Church of Papua (GKI Papua). Growing feelings of solidarity lead them increasingly to join demonstrations or write letters against torture and other human rights abuse. Other smaller, mainly orthodox Calvinist and evangelical groups are more interested in church and community development issues than in human rights.

Dr Siegfried Z( coordinates the West-Papua-Netzwerk in Germany. Feije Duim ( works at Global Ministries, Uniting Churches in the Netherlands.

Inside Indonesia 67: Jul - Sep 2001

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