West Papua is one of the provinces in Indonesia, located at the western tip of the island of Papua, whose capital is Manokwari. The religions in this part of Indonesia are quite diverse. The majority of the population embraces Christianity, followed by Islam as the second dominant religion, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Christianity is embraced by 62.88 percent of the population, with 54.1 percent adhering to Protestantism and 8.71 adhering to Catholicism. At the same time, Islam is embraced by 36.74 percent, Buddhism 0.19 percent, and Hinduism by 0.19 percent of the total population.
The Entrance of Missionaries and Their Influence
As the dominant religion embraced by Papuans, Christianity itself began to enter West Papua on February 5, 1855. At that time, two missionaries from Germany came to Mansinam Island, located in Teluk Doreh, Manokwari. They were Carl Wilhelm Ottow and Johann Gottlob Geissler after previously conducting shipping expeditions and stopping in Batavia, Makassar, and Ternate.
The missionaries also taught modern culture and ways of life to the local Papuan population, which was still practicing traditional faith. The entry of the Gospel to Papua for the first time is an important milestone that marks the emergence of modern civilization in Papua.
To commemorate the first time the Gospel came to Papua brought by the two missionaries, every February 5 is celebrated as an official holiday in the Papua region.
The implementation of this official holiday has been around since 2008. This is based on the Decree of the Governor of Papua Province Number 140 of 2008. The Day of the Gospel Enters Papua is considered the day when light, civilization, progress, and various things smell of modernity enter Papua.
On that day, Mansinam Island is usually crowded with visitors from all regions, Papuans, and other regions to commemorate the evangelism every year.
The historical legacy of these two missionaries that can be found on Mansinam Island is a memorial to the entry of the Gospel in Papua. There are also remnants of the church building that they used to build until now can still be found.
Islam in West Papua
The second dominant religion, Islam, has entered earlier than Christian teachings. According to historical records, several different versions explain the entry of this religion.
Tracing the facts about the presence of Islam in Papua through literature is quite tricky. In fact, there are no valid and adequate library materials, especially about the interaction of Islam with the Papuan people.
However, several works explain the entry of Islam in Papua, such as in the book Muslim Papua by Dhurorudin Mashad. It is demonstrated that the early arrival of Islam could not be separated from the trade route that stretched between the international shipping centers in Malacca and Java.
Meanwhile, in Hikayat Bacan, it is explained that in 1512, a younger brother of the Sultan of Bacan named Kaicil Jelman was appointed ruler of Misool Island, one of the four major islands in the Raja Ampat Archipelago. He was the first Muslim believer in this area.
The spread of religion by the Bacan Sultanate was carried out in the mid-15th century and made many tribal chiefs of this region begin to embrace Islam.
The Muslim population is currently concentrated in coastal islands, such as Sorong, Fakfak, Bintuni Bay, Kaimana, and Raja Ampat.
Before all religions in West Papua entered and spread, the indigenous Papuan people had first carried out the faith of their ancestors. As happened on the southern coast of Papua, a Jae community has beliefs based on magical powers that lead to the totemism model.
The entrance of these religions has also influenced the way of life of the people there. Although the religions are diverse and the population consists of various ethnic groups, Papuans live side by side and maintain harmony. We can learn on how the Papuans keep the tolerance there.