The Traditional Religion of West Papua

West Papua Religion
Sumber : ikilho Jatim

Christianity is the major West Papua religion. However, did you know that Papuans already had their own traditional beliefs?

Long before Christianity and Islam entered Papua, each tribe there had its own traditional beliefs. They believe in the existence of a god or God who has power over the gods.

Each tribe in Papua has its designation of the gods above the gods. All Gods or gods are respected and recognized because they are considered the Creator who has absolute power over the destiny and fate of human life.

West Papua Religion
Sumber : Berbol

The Uniqueness of Traditional West Papua Religion

The indigenous people of the Land of Papua used to carry out the teachings they had inherited from generation to generation. For example, on the southern coast of Papua, there is a community called Jae. The community believes in magic power, which leads to the model of totemism.

This belief influences animal and plant names as clan names because they believe that the ancestors came from these two living things.

The Arfak tribe trusts this religion. They believe in certain powers in animals, plants, and objects. Unfortunately, people can also use this power to hurt or kill other people.

This belief has the potential to cause mutual suspicion between groups, both small and large groups. To overcome this, the people of the Arfak tribe rely on the role of shamans.

We can also take the example from the Moi tribe. Before getting to know modern faiths (Christianity, Islam, Catholicism), this tribe has animistic West Papua religion that adhere to myths and learn folk songs, mantras, and various customary prohibitions.

The description of this customary prohibition can be seen through sacred places, such as forests, and how they take fish in the sea or rivers, tap sago, where they must do everything by mentioning the names of spirits or ancestral spirits.

Animism is a belief in spirits or spirits. Animism is a form of traditional human consciousness in understanding the Creator who has the highest position of power in this world.

Before knowing God in Christianity and Islam, the Moi had believed in a God who reigned above the gods called “Fun Nah and Muwe.” They assume that the Creator God is the supreme ruler who is invisible but can be found in natural elements, such as wind, rain, lightning, whirlpools, etc.

The Moi tribe has a pearl of local wisdom called Egek, which prohibits taking something from nature or particular objects within a predetermined period. This tradition has been carried out from generation to generation—even though most of the population of this tribe has embraced Christianity.

In addition to the Moi tribe, the Asmat tribe also believes in animism. In the culture of the Asmat tribe, they used to admit that they were children of gods who came from the unseen world. They believe that in their territory, there are three types of spirits.

The first group is Yi-Ow, or ancestral spirits who are good, especially for their descendants. The second is Osbopan, or evil spirits, which are considered to be residents of certain types. And the third is Dambin – Ow, the evil spirit who died silly.

The life of this tribe is closely related to the natural surroundings. They believe that spirits, jinn inhabit this world, and sentient beings are later referred to as devils. These demons are divided into two groups: demons that endanger life and monsters that do not threaten life.


Asmat people also believe in magical powers, which are mostly taboo. 

There are several taboos in daily activities such as fishing, animal hunting, and gathering food ingredients.

The magical power of the Asmat tribe is believed to be able to be used to find lost items, stolen items, or show who the thief is.

Overall, these religions teach people to embrace and respect nature. However, after the spread of other modern religions in West Papua, such as Christianity and Islam, some beliefs slowly begin to collide. What the government needs to do is to preserve the traditional West Papua religion to create peace and harmony.