WEST PAPUA A PRISON AS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS CONTINUE
Indonesia is unlikely to ever allow the people of West Papua another referendum on independence, according to a leading expert on the region. “The TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) has made very clear it will not allow it, and no president has sufficient political will or capital to push it that hard,” says Damien Kingsbury, Professor of International Politics at Deakin University in Melbourne. Activists want the United Nations to pass a resolution for an internationally supervised vote for independence. But Professor Kingsbury told Pasifik News, the UN Security Council would be unlikely to authorise a referendum without Indonesia’s agreement. Does that mean all is lost for the independence movement?
Not according to Tess Newton Cain, political analyst from Vanuatu-based TNC Consulting. “We need to look at what the movement has been able to achieve in recent years in raising the profile of this issue right across the world,” she says. Dr Newton Cain points to an active social media campaign that has put the issue of human rights violations in West Papua on the world stage. “It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, forces it onto a political agenda and forces it to the UN,” Mr Corbyn said last month. There is support too from the Australian Greens. “The UN has said the West Papuan people risk extinction if human rights violations in the country continue, but their suffering is being ignored by the Australian Government,” says Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
Australia, like many countries in the world, recognises Indonesia’s sovereignty. One country that doesn’t is Vanuatu, which is leading the charge for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua to be given full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. “Momentum is growing for that to happen,” says Professor Kingsbury, “but Indonesia is using its considerable influence to stop full membership and hence recognition. It will be difficult for West Papua to gain full membership, not least because it cannot claim sovereign status.” Charlot Salwai – Vanuatu’s Prime Minister – is expected to lead the bid to remove Indonesia with the support of his Solomon Islands counterpart, Mannasseh Sogavare.
The revelation comes after Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said his government was concerned about human rights abuses in West Papua. Oxford-based exile, Benny Wenda, laments international ignorance. ‘For the last 50 years we have struggled for freedom but nobody knows that West Papua is a prison, and that we are slaves to the Indonesian military. According to Wikipedia the West Papuan conflict has resulted in over 100,000 Papuans displaced with an estimate of between 150,000 to 400,000 killed. In 2013, more than 13,500 refugees lived in exile in Papua New Guinea. Signatories to the Geneva Conventions such as the United States, Britain and Australia, are legally duty bound to examine claims of genocide. However, these governments continue backing Indonesia.
CHURCH OF SCOTLAND SAYS YES TO SAME-SEX MARRIED MINISTERS
The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has agreed that ministers and deacons can marry members of the same gender. Commissioners made this historic decision on 21 May 2016 by 339 votes to 215. This is a major step towards including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. Next year there will be further discussion on whether ministers will be allowed to celebrate weddings if they so wish. Meanwhile the theological view of marriage as the union of a man and woman remains. Yet as John Chalmers, Principal Clerk to the General Assembly, explained, “Today’s decision means it will be possible for kirk sessions and congregations to depart from the traditional understanding of marriage to call not only potentially a minister in a civil partnership but one who is in a same-sex marriage.”
The decision may encourage a shift by some churches in Britain which still threaten LGBT clergy or elders with dismissal if they marry. Since the end of 2014, same-sex couples in Scotland have been legally able to marry. The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that this was backed by about four-fifths of non-religious people and three-fifths of Christians, including 59 per cent of those questioned who were members of the Church of Scotland. However approval was less common among weekly worshippers. In addition, some members, while not yet convinced of the rightness of marriage of same-sex couples, are willing to grant freedom of conscience to those who are. A handful of Church of Scotland ministers have left in recent years because of increasing acceptance of partnered LGBT people.
ROMANIA AIMS TO ENSHRINE NATURAL MARRIAGE IN THEIR CONSTITUTION
An alliance of Christian churches and family groups has signed three million Romanians to an initiative to enshrine natural marriage in the nation’s constitution. The initiative, if successful, would add this: “A family is established through the free-willed marriage between one man and one woman, and is based upon their equality and their right and their duty to provide for the raising, the education and the training of the children.” Peter Costea, a Houston, Texas lawyer and international spokesman for the Coalition for Family, said the project still must make it over several difficult hurdles. “To get a successful citizen’s initiative through is extremely difficult,” he said.
The alliance surmounted the first obstacle with room to spare. The three million signatures were six times what was required. As well, organizers had to gather 20,000 names in at least half the country’s 42 counties, but they surpassed that number in all of them. Costea attributes this to the involvement of all the churches, especially the Eastern Orthodox, which comprises 81% of the population. “This was tried in 2006 and failed,” he said. “It was just the evangelicals behind it then but now all the churches support it.” The next requirement is the approval of the country’s Constitutional Court. But Costea said this should not be a problem because the European Court of Human Rights does not recognize a right to gay “marriage,” either.
CHILDREN IN SYRIA RISE UP IN PRAYER GATHERINGS AND PEACE MARCHES
For the children of Syria, divine intervention is their only hope for peace in their homeland. Action, not words of support from the international community is the cry of aid workers and doctors to protect them from deadly attacks. Hundreds of Orthodox and Catholic children across Syria recently joined the prayer gatherings and processions that took place in Damascus and other locations to mark International Children’s Day. “Look upon the tears of the children; dry the tears of the mothers; let the cries of grief at last fall silent” Syrian Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchs said in a joint statement. In Istanbul, the head of the Medical Care and Relief Organization told delegates at the World Humanitarian Summit that aid workers and doctors need protection from the deadly attacks, and aid should reach those most in need.
“Being a doctor inside Syria means waiting for death,” Zedoun Al Zoubi said. These two facets of desperations wrap Syria as the civil war enters its sixth year. From 2011 when it broke out 11 million people, or half of its population fled their homes. Around 4.8 million have taken refuge in neighbouring countries or even farther afield. The rest are left with the risk of being caught in the cross fire, harassed or abused. The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said for over five years these children have been dragged through a cruel war, wounded, traumatized or even killed, and many have lost family in the conflict
WORLD’S FIRST SURVIVING SEPTUPLETS GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL
The septuplets who sparked a nationwide abortion debate before their 1997 birth have graduated high school and credited their faith in God for allowing them to thrive despite overwhelming odds. Kenny, Kelsey, Natalie, Brandon, Alexis, Nathan, and Joel accepted their diplomas at the Carlisle High School in Iowa. Their story quickly became national news back in November 1997, as they were the first set of septuplets to survive past infancy, all born weighing between two and four pounds. Parents Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey used fertility drugs to conceive but rejected any idea of selection reduction upon learning that they would be having seven children instead of one or two, saying it was ‘in God’s hands.’
“I will always remember the day we found out there were so many,” Bobbi recalled back in 2013. “It wasn’t like ‘yahoo!’ There were so many doubts. To a lot of people this might sound trite, but God determined the outcome. We’ve built a good foundation that wouldn’t have happened had that situation not occurred. So the message is let God use you. It doesn’t have to be something that makes national news.” At the time, the family received generous donations which was crucial to them being able to survive as a family.
WORLDS LARGEST MUSLIM GROUP ADMITS EXTREMISM ORIGINATES IN ISLAMIC TEACHING
Yahya Staquf, an Indonesian cleric affiliated with the Nahdlatul Ulama, said many Muslims have evolved from traditional Islam to supremacist Islamism. His admission reinforced former Pope Benedict’s statement that had strained the relationship between Muslims and the Vatican when he said that Islam is not a religion of peace. At the international meeting of moderate Islamic leaders in Jakarta, the Indonesia-based organization strongly condemned their fellow Muslims particularly the Islamic State (ISIS) and the al-Qaeda. “We keep on denying the source of the problem, namely some ailments within Islam itself,” Staquf said, adding that bad elements of Islam are indeed part of the extremism problem.”
Participants of the conference praised the group’s admission of some ailments within Islam, and urged Muslim leaders to institute modifications into their laws to make it in consonance with the modern world. Magnus Ranstorp, a counterterrorism expert from Sweden, said these issues have to be resolved by among the Muslims themselves with no interference from the West. “I don’t see any Muslim leaders coming to Europe standing up like a tower and saying, ‘Look, we are prepared to take this on,'” he said.
BRAZIL CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE WORLD’S LARGEST CHRISTIAN EVENT
Brazil’s ‘March for Jesus’ gathered hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians who took the streets of Sao Paolo, turning it into the “largest Christian event in the world.” The Reborn in Christ Church spearheaded the event that gathered double the attendance than that of last year. The crowd followed trucks fitted with speakers as the procession extended more than three miles across Sao Paulo with an ending point in downtown, where musicians played worship music until late night. “It’s an event for the family, the biggest manifestation of faith,” Bishop Fernanda Hernandes Rasmussen said. “This is a celebration for having the freedom to show our faith, and living with joy because of Christ’s salvation in us,” he added.
The first ‘March for Jesus’ took place in 1987 in London. Other countries followed suit making it a global Christian event. Brazil is predominantly Catholic. But with each passing year, the Evangelical Christians have grown into an increasingly powerful political force. Many pastors have been working in remote areas and in slums, gaining influence that the government does not have.