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Church groups address issues in Indonesia & PNG


THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (WCC) and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) have highlighted initiatives on the islands of New Guinea.

WCC is addressing the human rights crisis as the Papuan people of Indonesia seek greater self-determination and WACC said it is supporting a communications project to benefit PNG villagers seeking to protect their river environment from mining activities.

On the province of Tanah Papua, WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said "we urge an end to the ongoing violence and impunity. We support the call for social and economic justice through serious dialogue and a concrete political process that seeks to address root causes of the present problems."

The Papuan people have been demanding freedom of expression and the right to self-determination, but their demands have been suppressed by Indonesian authorities, sometimes violently.

During his visit to Tanah Papua earlier this month, Tveit met with Indonesian and Papuan church leaders.

Tanah Papua has a prominent Christian presence, with more than 45 diverse denominations. The province has remained the focus of tensions between the authorities and the Papuan people. In February, the WCC's executive committee expressed concern over continuing violence and urged a peaceful resolution.

"The Indonesian government must consider the realities of Papuan people and ensure a secure future for them," said Tveit.

The Toronto-based WACC announced in late June that it is involved in a project in Papua New Guinea that will help Sepik River villagers identify communications tools as they assess the effect of a nearby copper and gold mine on their environment.

The project is intended to help indigenous people living in 50 small villages who have been fighting to have their voices heard by the government and the management of a new mine.

WACC said the villagers rely heavily on the Sepik River for water, food and transport and they are worried about sedimentation of the water and heavy metal pollution from mining operations.

The Sepik Wetlands Management Initiative, a local wetlands management and community development organization, found an increase in silt in the river after test drilling. "The people anticipate environmental, social and cultural disruptions," said chairman Jerry Wana.


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