Press Release - #PapuanLivesMatter: West Papua Network and United Evangelical Mission urge the Indonesian government to end racism against indigenous Papuans

(Wuppertal, 23rd of June 2020). In the wake of the anti-racism demonstrations in the USA after the death of George Floyd caused by police violence and the current worldwide attention to this issue, the West Papua Network (WPN) and the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) express their concern about the continuing racism against indigenous Papuans and draw attention to the importance of the #PapuanLivesMatter campaign. The West Papua Network and the UEM call on the Indonesian government to take effective measures against racism in West Papua and to promote and protect the human rights of Papuans.



Like #BlackLivesMatter, #PapuanLivesMatter focuses on the general protection of human rights and demands an end to racist police and military violence in West Papua. In West Papua, some form of racism has existed for many decades, which is reflected in daily violence and unequal treatment. Indigenous Papuans are massively restricted in the exercise of their internationally protected right to freedom of expression, are unlawfully imprisoned and are regular victims of physical police and military violence. West Indonesias discriminate against West Papuans because of their darker skin colour, referring to them as 'pigs', 'animals', 'monkeys' and 'dogs'. There are several killings of unarmed civilians among the Papuans by Indonesian security forces every year.

In August 2019, a police operation during which disproportionate force was used against 43 Papuan students led to nationwide anti-racism protests. Outbreaks of racially motivated violence between indigenous Papuans and migrants, as well as violent intervention by security forces during demonstrations, had claimed a total of 59 lives in less than a month. Trials following the unrest have failed to bring justice for the majority of victims and their families. Disproportionately low sentences for the perpetrators, the prosecution of demonstrators and the criminalization of political activists and human rights defenders intensified already existing feelings of anger and resentment among many Papuans.

Currently, more than 50 Papuans illegally detained are still in custody. Although the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for the early release of political prisoners during the Corona crisis, the central government in Jakarta is not complying with this demand.

In a letter dated 12 June 2020, the religious leaders in Papua have also addressed Indonesian President Joko Widodo. In this letter they demand in regard to the unequal treatment of Papuans, especially in the ongoing court cases, "that the state be present and play a serious role in resolving racism and upholding the law fairly and with dignity". Racism against Papuans must be ended “in order to achieve long-term political stability and security, especially in Papua and in Indonesia in general", the religious leaders in Papua demanded in this letter to further advocate peace in Papua. The letter was also signed by Andrikus Mofu, President of the Protestant Church in Papua (GKITP) - a member church of the UEM.

The Indonesian government has so far failed to take meaningful measures against the marginalization of indigenous Papuans, to send clear signals against racism and to enter into dialogue with Papuan representatives in order to find a peaceful solution to the political conflict in West Papua. Despite years of criticism, Indonesia has taken no discernible steps to stop racist killings by security forces and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.

The UEM and the West Papua Network condemn the repressive actions of the Indonesian security forces against the indigenous Papuan population and are concerned that racist incidents against indigenous Papuans are increasing. Both organisations remind the Indonesian government of Indonesia’s responsibility as a member state of the UN and as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to promote and protect human rights at the national level. The Indonesian government is called upon to take effective measures to prevent and end all forms of violence against the indigenous Papuan population, especially by the security forces. The West Papua Network and the UEM appeal to the Indonesian government to instead enter into a dialogue with representatives of civil society, with the participation and mediation of an independent institution recognized by both sides, in order to resolve existing conflicts peacefully and to realize the protection of their human rights for the Papuans.

For further questions or interviews, you can contact the Secretariat of the West Papua Network via telephone +49-202 / 89004 170 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The West Papua Network has been committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in West Papua since the 1990s. The West Papua Network deals with the political, social, ecological and cultural situation in West Papua and brings the voice of the Papuans to Germany through education and public relations work and through advocacy work. The member organizations in the West Papua Network are groups that promote human rights, solidarity and the protection of the environment, partnership church districts, parishes and other organizations of the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Journalists, scientists and other interested parties are active as individuals in the network. They all work in different ways for peace and the protection of human rights in West Papua.

The United Evangelical Mission (UEM) with its headquarters in Wuppertal is an international, equal communion of 38 churches in Africa, Asia and Germany and the vodelschwingh Foundations Bethel. UEM supports its members by promoting development, environmental and peace projects and provides humanitarian aid. The proclamation of the gospel also includes improving the living conditions of people in need and standing up for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.