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Backhouse Lecture 2019
2019 BACKHOUSE LECTURE
Animating Freedom: accompanying the West Papuan struggle by Jason MacLeod
The James Backhouse Lecture Series offers new insights into Quaker faith and practice and into contemporary concerns
was delivered Monday 8 July, 7.10pm at the Farrall Centre at The Friends' School, Hobart Tasmania
In 1991, Jason MacLeod travelled to occupied West Papua. That visit changed his life. Eight years later, in 1999, Jason made a thirty-year commitment to journey in solidarity with West Papuans as they search for nonviolent ways out of occupation. Since then he has been regularly traveling inside the country. He has walked alongside Papuan leaders as they travelled from West Papua to Washington; Port Moresby to Port Vila. It is a journey has taken him deep into the mountains and forests of West Papua; from the halls of power to the inside of police interrogation rooms.
An outsider who has also been invited to sit inside the freedom movement, Jason has watched the struggle transition from fragmented armed groups waging guerrilla war in the jungles and mountains of New Guinea, to a largely nonviolent, unifying and transnational social movement. Often, he has been the only foreigner invited into historic meetings. He has celebrated as West Papuans captured the attention of people and governments in the Pacific, and despaired as his friends strained under impossible tensions.
In this Backhouse Lecture, Jason shared what he has learnt about accompanying West Papuans – and to a lesser extent Aboriginal people, Bougainvilleans and East Timorese – in their struggle for self-determination. Through personal stories – enlivened by poetry, art, music, and video – he shared his sense of this experience in ways that might speak more broadly to Quaker concerns. While Jason spoke about West Papua, the lecture was not really about West Papua, much less about West Papuans.
Jason's Lecture was a deeply personal reflection on what one person thinks it takes to animate freedom in the context of historical and continuing colonisation: one person’s sketch of dangerous territory, and a path through it. At the heart of this framework are the five elements: going deeper (earth), seeing far (air), acting together (fire), holding relationships (water) and a sense of mystery at the heart of it all (spirit). The lecture concluded with challenges/touchstones for Quakers who are also passionate about decolonisation.
Jason MacLeod has been accompanying the struggle for liberation in West Papua since 1991. An educator, organiser and researcher, Jason works with local communities, campaigns and environmental and social justice movements in Australia, Asia and Oceania. He is a Quaker and descendant of crofters from the Isle of Lewis, Scotland. He lives on Jagera and Turrbal Country and is a member of the Meanjin (Brisbane) Meeting. (Image credit: Stradbroke Island Photography)
To view Jason's Lecture on the Quakers Australia YouTube channel here.
To read more about the James Backhouse Lecture Series click here.