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Anti-Apartheid Leader Dedicates Award to the People of West Papua

Anti-Apartheid Leader Dedicates Award to the People of West Papua

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Published by Angin Kurima
This week in Boston the Rev. James Lawson, the civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King, presented awards to four civil resisters.
This week in Boston the Rev. James Lawson, the civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King, presented awards to four civil resisters.

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Published by: Angin Kurima on Jul 07, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Benny Wenda (l) with James Lawson (r)
 Jason MacLeod, University of Queensland
 This week in Boston the Rev. James Lawson, the civil rights leader who workedalongside Martin Luther King, presented awards to four civil resisters. Theawardees are leaders of movements for environmental protection,defending indigenous people, political rights, and the end of racial
oppression. One of this year‟s winners is Mkuseli (Khusta) Jack, the st
rategistwho led consumer boycotts in South Africa during the darkest days of
apartheid. In his acceptance speech Khusta said “I dedicate this award,which is lodged deep in my heart, to the people of West Papua.”
“People all round the world have to turn t
heir lens to the abuses committed
by the Indonesian authorities in West Papua” said Khusta. “They have to hear 
the cries of the West Papuan people for self-
 Deploring the fact that West Papuan people have been denied the right to afree and
fair vote about their political future Khusta remarked that “in this day
and age there is no room for any form of colonization or encroachment on a
people. This discrimination is even worse when it is based on racism” he
added.Turning directly to Benny Wenda, the West Papuan leader who was present
at the awards ceremony, Khusta said “you must continue to fight for your right. You shall be free; it is only a matter of time.”
 As leader of the United Democratic Front, a coalition of over 500 civilianbased resistance groups aligned with the African National Congress, MkuseliJack demonstrated how the costs of apartheid could be transferred from thepeople of black townships to the commercial business community on whichthe support and revenue of the government partly depended. It was this
strategy of withdrawing people‟s buying power that alongside strikes by
black workers and external sanctions by foreign governments, created thecontext for negotiations between Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk thatfinally brought the edifice of apartheid tumbling down.Rev. Lawson also had some advice for the West Papuans. The key to anysuccessful civil resistance struggle is fierce discipline, rigorous planning andstrategy. Exhibiting the qualities of the respected pastor he is, Rev. Lawson
took Wenda by the hands and told him that “the power of life in you that
makes you strong is the power of God, the power of truth. Be strong. Be
courageous. Organise the struggle. You are on the side of history and truth.”
 In the late 1950s Martin Luther King Jnr. asked Rev. Lawson to travel to theSouth to help led the nonviolent struggle for basic rights that were thendenied by the United States government. Rev. Lawson trained students fromNashville in the strategy and tactics of civil resistance. Lawson and thestudents successfully desegregated lunch-counters in the downtown areathrough determined nonviolent action. They then went on to organise other campaigns of the civil rights struggle.
 Benny Wenda in the USA meeting Mkhuse
li „Khusta‟ Jack, former leader of
Anti Apartheid Movement in South Africa.After receiving the awards Rev. Lawson spent the remainder of the eveningtalking with Papuans about their struggle for freedom. Wenda said that it wasa dream come true meeting Re
v. Lawson and Mkuseli Jack. “The civil rights
struggle in the United States and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa
are beacons of hope for me and my people” said Wenda. “I know that oneday we will be free.”
 Besides Mkuseli Jack the other three winners of the James Lawson Award for Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Conflict are:
Evgenia Chirikova, the young Russian woman who co-foundedDefend Khimki Forest, which has fought a long and so far successfulcampaign in the last ten years to prevent the destruction of anancient-growth forest near Moscow.
Oscar Olivera, one of the key leaders of the campaign in
Cochabamba, Bolivia in the 1990‟s that prevented the privatization
of water resources and helped spark broad popular participationin Bo
livia‟s democratic transition in the ensuing years.

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