Benny Wenda and US civil rights legend Reverend James Lawson call for Cambodian rights activist Yorm Bopha to be freed from jail in this photo taken in Boston in 2013. (Yorm Bopha was released on bail on Nov. 22, 2013)
Last year, I attended the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict (FSI) (now calling for applications) and the honour to meet Benny Wenda, an independence leader from West Papua. His country is currently, and has been for the past 45 years, under brutal occupation by Indonesia. A simple act such as raising the West Papuan flag – the Morning Star – will land you in prison, possibly even shot.
This is a message from Benny, who is the founder of the Free West Papua Campaign:
“My name is Benny Wenda and I am a West Papuan independence leader.
When I was a child my village was bombed by the Indonesian military and many of my family were killed. Later, I began to campaign peacefully to free my country from Indonesian occupation. For this ‘crime’ I was arrested, tortured and threatened with death.
I managed to escape to the UK, where I now live in exile. My people are still suffering. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, raped and tortured. All we want is to live without fear and for West Papua to become a free and independent country.
Please hear my peoples’ cry for help. Please support the Free West Papua Campaign.”
Benny’s campaign has been gaining ground recently, with, for example, the Prime Minister of Vanuatu speaking out and calling for international action. Still, there is a need to keep the momentum going so that the people of West Papua can live with freedom and dignity in their own country – here’s how you can take action.