CHURCHES must stand and speak for the rights of the voiceless in the community.
And they should speak in a united voice on the atrocities conducted by Indonesian security forces on the people of West Papua.
Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae said the church had remained silent for too long and therefore played a part in the victimization of Papuans.
“Here we have in our own backyard, in Melanesia, a people who are being oppressed because of their wish to discuss self-determination and they are being silenced by their colonizers,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“The church must speak for the oppressed. It must be the voice of the voiceless to bring justice to those who suffer.”
He was speaking at the launch of the single Rise Morning Star – Freedom for West Papua by Fijian artist Seru Serevi in Suva on Thursday.
Reflecting on the Bible story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, Rev Pihaatae said while the West Papuan people continued to struggle, their hope for freedom was truly alive.
“The Lazarus story shows that there is hope, even in death,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“This week a group of pro-Indonesian Papuans came to Fiji and spoke about economic development and progress. These are good things, but not if economic progress is built on the suffering, pain and death of the people.”
He said that while the people of West Papua had no avenue to voice their frustrations, hurt and anger, it fell to others – including the church – to take up the cause.
“We congratulate Seru Serevi for this bold move in speaking for our brothers and sisters through his music,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“Now the church too must speak and address this issue of West Papuan self-determination not only through the pulpit but also taking this to the highest offices in the Pacific.
“Our governments must no longer feign ignorance of the situation. It is time to act despite the image Jakarta would like to portray.”
Rev Pihaatae said a recent public lecture series organized by the Indonesian government at the University of the South Pacific had shown one side of the situation in Papua.
“Now we must be the voice of those who cannot be heard – not only in West Papua but throughout the region.”