Albin Hillert/WCC

Albin Hillert/WCC

Trees are being planted by people participating virtually in a ceremony that both commemorates the life of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second UN secretary-general, and sows seeds for West Papua’s return to the UN.

Among those planting a tree is Bishop Philip Huggins, president of the National Council of Churches in Australia. Huggins also serves on the World Council of Churches Commission of the Churches for International Affairs.

An in-person (albeit socially distanced) ceremony will occur on 13 September at the United Liberation Movement for West Papua in Docklands, Victoria, Australia. Huggins, who planted his tree this week, will participate virtually via a video.

“We particularly invite diaspora communities from places that have been decolonised and those that are still struggling to achieve self-determination,” said Louise Byrne, who is organizing the event. “Many UN member-states now recognise that their failure to uphold West Papuans right to self-determination in November 1961 enabled the brutal subjugation of an indigenous people by a foreign state that has never recognised the principle of self-determination (despite being a UN member since 1950)."

Byrne is the sole woman in the United Liberation Movement for West Papua committee that won the nation Observer Status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group in June 2015. Hammarskjöld was an advocate for the pursuit of self-determination in West Papua.

Organizers hope that the trees planted in honour of Hammarskjöld will fortify the activism of states, non-governmental organizations, and individuals to support a motion in the UN General Assembly where West Papuans’ current, and historical, arguments for their right of sovereignty (over their land) can be debated.