We support #BlackLivesMatter because we believe in unity in diversity

(Photo Credit: Spunoutnews.com)

The death of George Floyd, an African-American man, dying under a police officer’s knee in Minneapolis, has fueled protests that emboldened anti-racism movements across the world. It also inspires strident actions by the protesters amidst the pandemic.

Those who protest denounce racism, discrimination, and bigotry rooted from what they believe as the long-standing social injustice addressed to the Black people, or called Black Lives Matter (BLM).

Unfortunately, this movement also inspires those who proclaim themselves as anti-racist groups to do similar actions while their background and problems are different. One of those BLM-inspired movements is Papuan Lives Matter (PLM) which resonates not only in Indonesia, but also abroad.

Despite all different backgrounds and problems around the two movements, the silver linings are about injustice, prosperity, and civil rights.

BLM and PLM: How do they differ?

Papuan senior figure who was also Indonesia’s Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (2004–2009) Freddy Numberi said that Black Lives Matter and Papuan Lives Matter are different, given the diverging historical background.

For him, Papuans were never forced to come to Indonesia as the people with limited economic and social rights just like what happened in the United States where million Africans were forcibly taken to the Americas to be slaves, or later they are called Afro-American.

The long struggle of Afro-Americans to obtain their rights were accumulated from 1861 until 1865, and ended with the ratification of the 13rd amendment of the United States Constitution which abolished race-based chattel slavery and proclaimed all men to be free and equal.

Their struggle was further paid off when Barack Obama took office and became the Unites States’ first African-American president with the commitment to improve the lives of all Americans, including African Americans.

However, things gradually change to get worse when the incumbent’s public acts are fueled with nativist sentiments directed at nonwhite immigrants. The failure to address such a situation creates the bottleneck problem and finally reaches its peak when George Floyd’s case happened.

From the Black Lives Matter movement, we see that criminal acts can turn into racial-based discrimination since the victim is Afro-American, and the suspect is white American who happened to be police. The story might be different if the victim were white American, and the suspect was Afro-American. Here we see how identity matters in shaping how we respond toward such conflicts.

As for Papua, Indonesian’ officials, however, never proclaim any public acts nor actions which contain sentiment towards some specific races nor ethnicities.

There was also no historical record about slavery addressed to Papuans because Papua (former known as Netherlands New Guinea), just like other islands in Indonesia; Java, Borneo, and others who were under Dutch collonial possessions and altogether fought for independence during Indonesian National Revolution period.

As a country which is made up of more than 17,000 islands with more than 271 million people from more than 300 ethnic groups who are living in 34 different provinces, Indonesia upholds the principle of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or Unity in Diversity which emphasizes on the commitment to maintain unity without uniformity, and diversity without fragmentation.

Further, Indonesia does not recognize any superiority towards specific races or ethnic groups since there is no race nor ethnic group, which has a higher social status than others.

Therefore, it goes without saying that Indonesia supports Black Lives Matter as it is embedded in country’s motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika that respects diversity and does not tolerate any racial-based discriminations.

Unity without uniformity, and diversity without fragmentation

Diversity is Indonesia’s most significant social capital, which can unite the nations despite all ethnic groups, religions, and all differences. While it also has potential to the source of social conflicts if any prejudices and biases about different ethnic groups and races are involved. In some cases, even jokes can come across wrong and create offense.

To address this situation, the habit of dialogue, inclusiveness, peaceful settlement of disputes, and non-use of force should be encouraged. Lack of dialogue and understanding will inevitably worsen the situation. Constructive conversations indeed matter for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The understanding of the cultures, languages, nature, legacy, down to the people’s specific facial characters that are all different throughout Indonesia should be disseminated, especially for the youth generation.

It is also critical to educate the young generation, not only in Papua, but all parts of the country, to cultivate peace and tolerance because they have the strength, mental alertness, speed, ideas, and information necessary to create positive changes. The youth must, therefore, be the catalyst for change and not the catalyst for destructions.

Indonesia has been practicing the values of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika such as during Nyepi Day — Bali’s Hindu day of silence — where the airport will stop operating and there will be no airplane landing nor taking-off within that day and government offices will not open. However, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika should also be manifested in our social and daily activity life.

One of the examples on how living harmoniously with people from different ethnic groups is plaussible, is Ayub Antoh — usually called Paijo — a former football player of PSIM Yogyakarta from Sorong who has been living in Sleman, Yogyakarta with his Javanese family and also many students from different provinces since 2003.

Ayub graduated from Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta (UNY) majoring Sports and surprisingly sings many Javanese songs and speaks Javanese very well. Paijo believes that songs can become the tools to unite everyone despite the differences.

Another example is seen in “Sekar Aji” Inclusive Learning House in Yogyakarta, where many students from Papua and other provinces in Indonesia are living and study together in the same house.

Began with the spirit of promoting inclusive education, Drs. Bambang Purwoko, MA — who initiated this learning house — believes that academic and social assistance is needed for those students so that they can better prepare themselves to adapt to the environment, which may seem different from their hometown.

Inequality as the source of conflicts

Conflicts, riots, and clashes are rooted in inequality in the economy, politics, social, and other rights, which are worsened due to the absence of government in ensuring social cohesion — a situation where people enjoy a sense of belonging and trust toward their government. In response to this situation, political will is, therefore, relevant.

While the government putting many efforts into infrastructure advancement in Papua, there remain daunting challenges on the progress of human development in Papua. Human development is as essential as infrastructure development since the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals can enable them to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.

As of 2019, the Human Development Index (HDI) of Papua is 60,84, which put the province in the moderate level of achieving human development goal. Despite the average level and slow progress, the number is increasing 0,78 points from the 2018 HDI.

As for the advancement of development in Papua, Indonesia Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) offers the new paradigm, system, and policy which are in accordance with country’s National Medium-Term Development Plan 2020–2024 to include character and local wisdom of Papua as the more inclusive approach to ensure the sustainable development in Papua.

Here would be the priorities: (1) advancing human resources development, (2) promoting good governance architecture, (3) improving the quality of the environment, (4) promoting disaster resilience based on local wisdom, and (5) fostering local economic development and business opportunities to enlarge the downstream industry-based income.

These do not only prove the nation’s commitment to accommodate the need of people in Papua through the local-based approach but also to open up the opportunity for Papuans to reap the benefits from the progress towards the more inclusive development.

In order to create inclusive and sustainable growth, however, it requires the active participation of everyone, not just the government but also the people themselves.

Masyitoh Annisa



Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.

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The Wawawa Journal

Enriching discourse and understanding. A protest to Indonesian govt that unsuccessfully serves the world fair info about West Papua.