Benny Wenda: Happy Independence Day to Papua New Guinea

I offer congratulations and warm wishes to our Melanesian family in Papua New Guinea on their independence day. I hope the next year is one of stability, prosperity, and joy for all Papuans.

As you celebrate your independence, I hope that you will remember your brothers and sisters in West Papua who are still fighting the same battle you won 48 years ago. Under Indonesian rule, we are unable to live freely, as Papuans, Melanesians, and as Christians.

We are separated by a colonial border – an arbitrary European line drawn on a map. Birds-of-Paradise can fly from one side to the other without passing a military checkpoint or being questioned by an Indonesian soldier. This is how our ancestors operated for thousands of years, and many of us still have gardens and relatives on both sides of the border. We are one family, one culture, one people, one forest, one island, from Sorong to Samarai.

I know that one day we will be able to sit and celebrate independence together. Until then, I ask all Papuans to pray for our liberation, to fly the Morning Star alongside the PNG flag, and support our struggle in any way you can.

God bless the people of Papua New Guinea.

Benny Wenda