Human rights violations in Papua and the Ukraine are equally appalling and horrendous. The difference is that the situation in Ukraine is very much in the public eye, with the whole world watching and variations of the truth being published, whereas in Papua the whole world is pretty much oblivious to the abuse that indigenous people are suffering.
On 1 March three United Nations (UN) human rights experts issued a joint statement calling for urgent action to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Indonesia's West Papua and Papua provinces.
While the statement makes no mention of racial or religious distinctions, it must be noted that the human rights violations are being perpetrated by Indonesia's mostly Javanese Muslim military against indigenous, ethnic Melanesian, mostly Christian, Papuan communities. Racial-religious hatred plays an enormous role in the violence and has done ever since the Indonesian invasion of 1962.
Military violence escalated in May 2021 after the Indonesian government deployed counter-terrorism forces to the region. The number of displaced Papuans is now between 60,000 to 100,000 people, thousands of whom remain stranded in the bush.
The UN experts were 'particularly disturbed by reports that humanitarian aid to displaced Papuans is being obstructed by the authorities ... In several incidents, church workers have been prevented by security forces from visiting villages where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are seeking shelter'.
The UN experts note: 'These [numerous cases of alleged abuses] may represent the tip of the iceberg given that access to the region is severely restricted making it difficult to monitor events on the ground.' The UN has now joined the European Union in calling for an end to impunity, adding that 'independent monitors and journalists must be allowed access to the region'.
The UN experts had written to the Indonesian government expressing their concerns in December 2021 but had not been impressed with the response they received; hence their decision to go public.
Indonesia's response on 1 March was to denounce the 'biased news' issued by the 'so-called "UN Human Rights experts"' as 'unconstructive and baseless'. The Indonesian government will lodge a formal protest through the Human Rights Council against the experts' 'unprofessional, ill-intentioned, one-sided' statement, claiming it is nothing but 'click-bait' aimed at creating 'negative public opinion'.
On Wednesday 2 March, Papuan gunmen killed eight technicians working on a telecommunications mast in a remote area. The West Papua National Liberation Army has claimed responsibility. A further escalation in military violence is all but guaranteed.
Please pray that God will help the Papuan church remain strong in the faith. Pray that humanitarian aid may be able to reach those who need it, and that God would protect churches, Christian organisations and other groups in doing so.
Pray also for open access to the regions where lack of transparency and lack of accountability has only worked to fuel human rights abuses.
Amidst obscene levels of death and destruction, Russia-Ukraine negotiations continue apace. Encouragingly, sources report, 'that the sides' positions aren't that far apart'. Russia is demanding: (1) that Crimea be recognised as part of Russia, (2) that the Russian-speaking separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk be recognised as independent republics, and (3) that Ukraine amend its constitution to enshrine neutrality.
Should this happen, then President Zelensky’s government would remain in place and Ukraine would retain its independence. Having already given up on NATO membership, Kyiv says it is ready to negotiate on territory.
Reasons why it is imperative that a ceasefire be brokered soon include the threats posed by: (1) nuclear weapons, (2) unsecured pathogens, and (3) an influx of pro-Russian and anti-Russian Muslim mercenaries, including battle-hardened Islamic jihadis.
In the words of long-time war correspondent Chris Hedges (27 Feb 2022), 'War is not politics by other means. It is demonic.' Indeed! Doubtless there is nothing the devil loves more than to see human beings - bearers of God's image - killing, butchering and destroying one another.
According to Ben Caspit (Israeli political analyst 8 March), the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have been real and serious. 'On the table is a new proposal from the Russians aimed at ending the fighting, awaiting a response by Zelensky.' Caspit reports: 'The sides' positions aren't that far apart … but Putin does not intend to compromise.'
In an analysis for Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor (8 March), experts explain that Chechens are already fighting on both sides of the conflict. According to reports there is much chatter in jihadist circles about 'whether joining the Ukrainian forces constitutes a legitimate form of jihad ... against the Russian "crusader" enemy'.
A worst-case scenario could see Ukraine - already a theatre of US-NATO proxy war - become a theatre for intra-Muslim war and/or an Islamic jihad against Russia, with the West supplying weapons to Islamic jihadists as occurred in Afghanistan in the 1980s. If that were to occur, Ukraine would become a magnet for jihadists. Add to the mix nuclear weapons and unsecured pathogens, and surely no-one would disagree that this demonic war must end as soon as possible.
Please pray for a breakthrough in negotiations, and that a ceasefire will be brokered soon and humanitarian needs addressed. Pray also that God would raise up peacemakers who, through their words and deeds, might reflect Christ and bring healing and hope to traumatised individuals, families and communities across ethnic and denominational lines.
May the Spirit of God empower all who call themselves 'Christian' - in Ukraine, Russia and everywhere Ukraine's refugees have fled - to resist the temptation to view the 'other' as the 'enemy' and react against them with ethnic and/or religious hatred, discrimination, persecution and repression.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html