By POWES PARKOP
As we approach Christmas and the New Year, we think about our loved ones and the time we are going to spend together at home or in our villages.
Those who are leaving our city to be with your relatives in the villages or your country if you are non-citizen, I am sure are looking forward to a lot of fun, celebrations and exciting times ahead.
And you should be looking forward to such enjoyable times with your relatives and loved ones.
Christmas is not just a time for worshiping and welcoming the birth of Christ but it is also a time for happiness, celebration and fun.
I wish those of you leaving our city for your villages and countries a joyous time with your relatives and friends.
Christmas is also a time to think about our neighbours, especially those unfortunate ones who might be languishing in jail or facing hardship due to low income or deprivation due to natural or manmade disasters.
It is not just a practice of Christmas but also a central part of the gospel of Christ that as Christians we must continue to reach out to those unfortunate, those facing hardship and those who are struggling to meet the basic of life for we are all children of God and it is God’s will and desire that we must love and care for each other.
This Christmas, as you spend time with your loved ones, I ask you to spare a thought for West Papua and our people of West Papua.
West Papuans are also God’s people and while we enjoy our Christmas and worship the birth of Christ, we will not be fulfilling our faith as Christians and failing the gospel of Christ if we continue to ignore the people of West Papua and their country like we have been for the last 50 years.
Among our mist this Christmas will be thousands of West Papuans who have fled their country and who have been born in Diaspora here in PNG.
Many if not all of them are Christians like most of us in PNG.
They don’t look any different to us because they are also Melanesians and are human beings.
They are our immediate neighbours.
They share the same island, culture, language, traditions and even ancestry as us. They are, however, not here by choice but due to the circumstance in the country.
If they had a choice and could be guaranteed freedom which we take for granted in our country, I am sure they would love to go back to their villages, home towns and cities in their own country to enjoy Christmas with their friends and loved ones and stay to rebuild their lives and their country.
Unfortunately, this is not possible.
In the 17th Century, their country, which is the western part of our Island of New Guinea was colonised by the Kingdom of Holland, a European country.
In early 1960s when they were preparing for Independence, they were invaded by the Indonesian army and eventually incorporated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1969 after a fake or fraudulent vote in which only 1,000 men were allowed by the Indonesian military to determine the future of these people.
These were handpicked officials that the Government of Indonesia had selected to decide the future of that country and its people.
As a result of this forced incorporation, thousand who rejected the takeover rebelled and were then forced into exile.
In 1962, a small group of West Papuans fled into PNG when the Indonesia army invaded.
After the 1969 forced annexation of their country by Indonesia, thousands fled their villages, home towns and cities and their loved ones to come to PNG.
Many of them and their children and grand children continue to live among us to this day.
In 1984/85 thousands more fled about an aborted uprising against the Indonesian Government to demand independence.
Many of these people languish in refugee camps in PNG, both recognised and unrecognised.
Some of them eventually reached Port Moresby and set up camp at 8-Mile, only to be evicted two years ago by former Government Minister and Member of Parliament Sir Peter Lus and his company.
Many of these people would be facing a miserable Christmas again because our Government has not been able to relocate them to secured land after their eviction and the prospect to go back to West Papua continue to be remote due to increased militarisation of their country by the Indonesian army.
Today in West Papua, just the act of raising the Morning Star, their national flag, will invite more than 15 years in jail under Indonesian law.
You don’t have to say anything or do anything.
As long as you raise or display the morning star flag, you will receive 15 years jail sentence.
As we approach Christmas, spare a thought for West Papua and West Papuans. These are Melanesians, people whom we share same ethnicity, traditions, cultures, values, ancestry and land.
By some cruel and evil plans and circumstance of history they are forced to become part of another country against their choice.
Today thousands of them live among our mist, some in poor appalling conditions and many in refugee camps which our Government has long forgotten or neglected.
Think of those still back in West Papua who would love to have Christmas as free people, running their own country, singing their own songs, making their own mistakes and learning their owns lessons as they build a future for themselves and their children.
Remember they too are people of God and they are your immediate neighbours.
They don’t just need your thoughts and prayers; they need your support so that they can be free in their own land and celebrate Christmas in peace.
You can help the people of West Papua by writing to the Government of PNG to take a more dignified approach to Indonesia about West Papua.
Instead of pretending that West Papua is not our concerns or is an internal matter for Indonesia to resolve, we should take a human rights and Christian stand where we recognise that they have a right to live in peace and freedom, away from fear and violence and that as people of God they need our care and attention too.
If you are a citizen of another country going to your country for holidays, you can do the same this Christmas by writing to your Government to raise its concerns with the Government of Indonesia to release the people of West Papua so they can freely determine their own future as equal and free people of our world.
It would be really a meaningful Christmas if we take such steps this Christmas to think and take action to reach out to our neighbours, the West Papuans
A Merry Christmas to you all.
May our people of West Papua be able to celebrate a free Christmas soon.