Reverend Benny Giay is a dedicated peace activist in his native West Papua, a territory in Indonesia where the indigenous community has struggled for decades to gain independence. Over the years, the Tanenbaum Peacemaker has sought to bring international attention to the plight of his people. Through his writings and tireless activism, Rev. Giay has exposed state-sanctioned human rights abuses (often putting his life at risk) and offered nonviolent approaches to achieving peace and reconciliation in his homeland.
Last month, protesters in West Papua’s Paniai district were attacked by authorities. Five people were killed. The incident occurred just weeks before a planned visit to the province by Indonesia’s new President, Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo, to celebrate Christmas. Dismayed by the lack of an official response from Jakarta, Rev. Giay, along with other Church leaders in West Papua, questioned President Jokowi’s silence and even called on the President to cancel his upcoming trip to the region.
In an effort to assuage the concerns of West Papuans, President Jokowi met with Rev. Giay and Karel Phil Erari, who were representing their respective churches, at the State Palace in Jakarta on December 26, 2014. On the eve of the President’s visit to the Papuan capital, Rev. Giay proposed concrete steps the Indonesian government should take in the pursuit of justice, including launching an independent investigation into the killings.
Local NGOs and church associations have begun their own unofficial inquiries into the December 8th tragedy. The Indonesian Communion of Churches found the Indonesian Military responsible for the shootings and has submitted its report to the President. However, as of last week, Human Rights Watch Indonesia reports that the Indonesian Military, which is conducting its own internal investigation, has refused to cooperate with The National Commission on Human Rights, Indonesia’s national human rights institution.