West Papua is an area that has a lot of diversity. Not only regarding their culture and language but also in regards to their religion as well. It makes many people wonder about the religious history in West Papua. Especially about beliefs that are embraced by the majority of the Papuans today.
If you are wondering about what is the religion of West Papua? As for now, most of the West Papuans follow the Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity and Islam. Statistically, there are around 53,88% Protestants, 38,15% Muslim, 7,78% Catholics, 0,1% Hindu, and 0.08% Buddist.
Early Beliefs of the Ancient Papuan People
Then, how about the beginning of religious history in Papua, especially West Papua? Before the Abrahamic religions entered West Papua, each tribe had its own beliefs and traditions. However, most of them already believe that there is a substance that is superior to them.
Like most ancient Indonesian beliefs, Papuans believe in ancestral spirits. However, they also believe in the concept of God. Each tribe has a different mention of God. For example, Biak Numfor’s God is Manseren Nanggi, while the God of Moi Tribe is Fun Nah.
The Beginning of Islam in West Papua
Islam is the first Abrahamic religion to enter West Papua. If you are curious, when did Islam enter Papua? Then the answer is around the 15th or 16th century. However, Islam only developed rapidly in Papua in the 17th century in 1606.
The beginning of the history of Islam in West Papua is when the Tidore Kingdom embraced Islam. Because Papua is geographically close to Maluku, where the Tidore Kingdom comes from, they probably make contact. Moreover, Tidore expanded its power to various eastern regions, including West Papua.
West Papuans made their first contact with Islam through trade routes. Aside from Sultan Tidore, Muslim traders were also influential in spreading Islam in West Papua. This way, Islam began to develop in West Papua, especially in Fakfak and Sorong.
Until now, Islam is still a minority religion in West Papua, except in Fakfak and Sorong.
The Beginning of Protestant in West Papua
As in the data above, Protestantism is the majority religion in West Papua. However, the fact is, that Protestants only entered West Papua on February 5th, 1855. At that time, two missionaries from Germany came to Mansinam Island. Their names are Carl Willhelm Ottouw and Johan Gottlob Geissler.
They were both escorted by people from the Kingdom of Tidore. When they arrived at Mansinam Island, they immediately prostrated and prayed. Both stated that the entire Mansinam Island had been baptized at that time. It is the starting point of the history of evangelism in West Papua.
Until now, there are many traces of Protestantism on Mansinam Island. Some of them are Prasasti Salib (The Inscription of Cross), an old church, and the Statue of Jesus Christ, which has a height of 30 meters. Besides, February 5th has also become an official regional holiday in Papua.
The Beginning of Catholic in West Papua
Same with Islam, the history of Catholicism in West Papua began in Fakfak. It happened on 22 Mei 1894, when a Pastor named C. Le Cocq Ardmanfile, SJ, arrived in Fakfak. Then, the Fakfak Tribe asked Le Cocq to introduce Catholicism to their brothers who live in the mountains.
Therefore, Le Cocq went to the mountains and began to spread Catholicism by baptizing 73 children.
So, you need to know the religious history in West Papua. At first, each tribe in West Papua had a different belief in God. But then, Abrahamic religion began to enter West Papua. Islam enters West Papua around the 15th or 16th century. Meanwhile, Christianity started to enter West Papua in the 19th century.