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Home » , , , » West Papua – a critical month coming up

West Papua – a critical month coming up

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on September 19, 2011 | 2:38 AM

West Papuans are spiritual people. Deeply conscious of benevolent and malevolent powers greater than themselves, they constantly recognise the loving God who gives life while remaining on guard against “dark” powers that may overwhelm them. Indeed, every time I visit West Papua I am humbled by this intense spirituality.
On February 5th 1855, the German missionaries, Carl Ottow and Johann Geisler set foot on Mansinam Island near Manokwari. They knelt on their knees and claimed Papua for Christ. Subsequently, February 5th became an important date throughout Papua and the day is now celebrated as a major public holiday.   

In 2011 Christianity continues to be real driving force across West Papua. This is not just measured in terms of church attendance or ongoing religious observances. Ottow and Geisler’s “claiming” West Papua for Christ continues to inspire local aspirations for a better life and a real hope for the future.
Here, I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr’s  great speech in 1963, “I have a dream”, when Biblical images were invoked to declare freedom for the oppressed and the marginalised. Such powerful images impact on West Papua.
On many occasions my Papuan friends have expressed the belief that their future and the future of West Papua is “in the hands of God”.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that the recently announced “Kongres II Rakyat Papua” (Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress) planned to take place in Jayapura on October 16th-19th, identifies a strong “theological” basis. This embodies the belief that “West Papua’s struggle must be offered to God who will act to raise local leaders”. West Papua must look to the God who can be trusted “to lead the people forward out of the tyranny of oppression.”
The Third Papuan Peoples’ Congress is being held to identify and to appoint an indigenous leadership. The Congress will also identify a way forward for those Papuans living in the Western half of the island of New Guinea and who have been incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia.
Like the Biblical figures of old, the Congress believes God will “give wisdom and power” as was offered when ”Moses Joshua brought the national of Israel out of the oppression of the Pharaoh in Egypt and directed them to the Land of Canaan.”
Ottow and Geisler’s legacy is effectively embodied in the life and witness of our partner church, the Gereja Kristen Injili di Tanah Papua (Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua). As bearers of the Gospel, the church in West Papua exercises a huge responsiblity across the region at this critical time.
Christianity is a major force in West Papua today. Meanwhile local people are conscious they are citizens of the most populous Muslim nation of earth and they, consequently, do fear the loss of their faith and their culture. Papuan Christians are acutely aware of the consequences of sectarian violence that has taken place between Christians and Muslims in other parts of Indonesia while they are anxious, even traumatised, by the  overwhelming presence of Indonesian security forces in their land. 
The Evangelical Christian Church in the Land of Papua will celebrate its 56th Anniversary on October 26th. This will be followed by the 16th General Assembly meeting in Sentani.
Please remember and pray for the people of West Papua as the Papuan Peoples’ Congress, the 56th Anniversary and the General Assembly of the Evangelical Christian Church take place in October. Much is at stake here. With an acknowledged and proclaimed dependence on God, big issues will be addressed by our Papuan brothers and sisters next month.
It’s vital they know they are not alone.
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