Off the Wall 4/3/15
Two weeks ago, in commemoration of World Social Justice Day, the Fiji Solidarity Movement for West Papua’s Freedom was launched.
Last weekend, in a possible response to the growing voices in the Pacific calling for justice over human rights abuses and self-determination for the people of West Papua, the Indonesian Foreign Minister visited Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. While discussions were said to be about bilateral relations, including in Fiji’s case, peacekeeping, it is not a far stretch to expect that the issue of West Papua, or Indonesia’s sovereignty was also discussed.
Following the Methodist Church’s statements of solidarity and support for the people of West Papua, some have asked if the church is becoming political again. The speech delivered by the Methodist Church in Fiji president, Rev. Tevita Banivanua, at the launch of the Fiji Solidarity Movement for West Papua’s Freedom was not a political speech, but a speech about justice. He reflects that the church’s response to the situation in West Papua is not about politics, although there is a political dimension. The response of the Methodist Church and of other churches, is the Christian response to the cry of the oppressed, particularly to the cry of those oppressed by empires for the sake of profit.
Below is the main text of his speech:
“All major world religious have at least one teaching in common, you will find this in Christianity, in Islam, in Hinduism, in Buddhism, in Judaism, in Sikhism, in Confucianism, in Taoism, in the Bahai’i faith and others. 21 faiths in fact have this particular teaching.
It is known as the Golden Rule:
“Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” Or to put it another way, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”.
As we mark World Social Justice Day, each one of us is called to commit to practicing the golden rule – the source of morality; the act of empathy, of putting yourself in the place of another – to be in solidarity with those oppressed and less fortunate brothers and sisters of ours. In particular we are called to speak for those whose voices are ignored or silenced. We are called to speak the truth in love.
For too long, we have failed to speak out against Indonesia’s brutal oppression of the West Papua people.
We are gathered here today to do just that.
We are here to speak out in love to our families, our community, our nation about the oppression of our brothers and sisters in West Papua and to call on all Fijians to join us in prayer, join us in solidarity and join us in speaking out about the tragic human rights abuses and violations committed against women as we have heard today, as well as men and children; simply because they live in a place that is coveted for its vast natural resources; and because they dare to dream and to cry out for the opportunity to determine their own future as a people – as we have also heard today.
Today we begin a movement of solidarity for West Papua.
This movement cannot be allowed to become stagnant. Let me repeat that. This movement cannot be allowed to become stagnant.
This is a movement which like the prophet Amos, calls for a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.
The Methodist Church in Fiji stands with our mothers and with our sisters, with our fathers and with our brothers and with our children in West Papua.
I call on my fellow brothers and sisters, who carry the responsibility for shepherding their flock, in the many Christian communities here in Fiji, to join us and those who have already begun, to walk with and speak out in love for the people of West Papua.
I call on all those who believe in a just and peaceful world to join us in this mission.
The people of West Papua only want what each one of us want: to live a life free of fear; to live a life free of violence; to live a life free of exploitation; to live a life free of oppression; and to live a life free of political interference and intimidation.
They seek to be able to plant and reap what they sow.
They seek to be able to use the natural resources that God has entrusted them with… in a sustainable and productive way; to secure a future for their own children and their descendants.
The prophet Micah reminds us what is good in the eyes of God. He writes:
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
To the leaders of our beloved nation Fiji: we ask you simply to humbly open your hearts to the suffering of the people of West Papua.
We ask you to let Fiji be the rock in which West Papua can find refuge.
Our brothers and sisters of West Papua seek membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group as members of the Melanesian community.
West Papua looks to their big brother Fiji to take their hand, offered in love, offered in hope – and grasp it firmly, and pull them from the valley of the shadow of death in which they find themselves today.
We implore our government to support the West Papuan request to join the MSG – as a way giving them a voice in a world which has turned a deaf ear on their cry.
West Papua has been inspired by this nation’s boldness to seek its own destiny, as mentioned earlier. Let us not turn them away when they seek to follow our example.
Friends, brothers and sisters – today is only the beginning.
Let us continue to walk together, to work together and to speak together in love, until West Papua is able to experience the true peace, the Shalom, the Salaam, that they desperately seek.
I came here this morning wearing this small badge on my coat, which says simply, “All We Can”. This message is based on a saying by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. He said:
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can.”
As we launch this movement for solidarity for West Papua’s freedom, I say, “Yes we can.”
If we stand together, if we work together, we can!”
As Fiji stands poised as a state, to ratify UNCAT, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the questions we must ask ourselves is “what can we do for others who are being tortured?” and “what should our nation do?”
“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity.”