Benny Giay was born in 1955 in the village Onago on Lake Tigi in the Paniai District among the Me people (or Ekagi people) in what was then Netherlands New Guinea. He is a theologian, a social anthropologist and an activist, known for his activities in reconciliation to protect the rights of the Papuans of the Western, Indonesian controlled, part of New Guinea.
Early life and education
He studied social work at the Cenderawasih University (UNCEN) in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia and then Religious Studies in The Philippines. He was ordained as a pastor in the Kemah Injil Church (KINGMI) or Gospel Tabernacle Church, founded by CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He helped to establish a theological college for the Kingmi Church Papua in Kampung Harapan, Jayapura, the Walter Post Theological College. From 1990 to 1995 he did his doctoral studies in social anthropology at the Free University Amsterdam, The Netherlands with a thesis on the Wege Bage, a new religious movement led by Zakheus Pakage in his home district of Paniai.
The Papuan Struggle
On return to Papua he became lecturer Church and Society and Contextual Theology at the Walter Post Theological College. Here he established a Postgraduate Program Church and Society. He has been active in the Papua movement. He took in July 1998 the initiative to establish the Forum for the Reconciliation of the Irian Jaya Society (FORERI). It aimed at a discussion on ways for Papuans to have "an opportunity to handle their own affairs" through one of these ways: full independence, wide-ranging autonomy within the Indonesian unitary state, or the formation of a federal system in which Irian Jaya Province(now: Papua and West-Papua provinces) would enjoy substantial autonomy. FORERI helped to set up the national dialogue in Papua, initiated by President B J Habibie. This resulted in 100 Papuans, representing the various districts, demanding from Habibie unanimously independence in February 1999.
Benny Giay became in June 2000 a member of the Presidium of the Papua Council (Presidium Dewan Papua or PDP), elected at the Second Papua Congress, held in Jayapura, debating the political future of Papua Land. He was charged there with the "straightening of Papua history"(meluruskan sejarah Papua). To help the discussion he published a pamphlet Towards a New Papua, giving material to help the emancipation of the Papua people. He also supported later the initiative to turn the Papua struggle into a peaceful, non-violent struggle with the establishment of Zones of Peace and Papua as a Land of Peace (Tanah Damai.
In July 2002 the local organisation for the defence of human rights ELSHAM, the churches and the PDP set up a Peace Task force, with Benny Giay as its head. Its primary objective is to pursue reconciliation among Papuans through a peaceful dialogue.
In 2003 Benny Giay received the Tanenbaum Peace Makers Award.
- Kargoisme di Irian Jaya (Cargoism in Irian Jaya), 1986, Jayapura: Region Press
- The Rebels and Cargoistic Ideas in Irian Jaya, in: Catalyst, 9, 2: 131-146
- (with J A Godschalk), Cargoism in Irian Jaya today, in: Oceania, 1993, 63, 2: 131-146
- Zakheus Pakage and His Communities. Indigenous Religious Discourse, Socio-Political Resistance, and Ethnohistory of the Me of Irian Jaya, 1995, Amsterdam: VU University Press (Ph. D. Thesis, Free University Amsterdam)
- Kristus: Sang Penghalan Madou / Maut Telah Lahir, in: Deiay (Jayapura), 1997, 2, 8
- Gembalakanlah Umatku (Tend my Flock) 1998, Jayapura: Deiyai
- The Conversion of Weakebo. A Big Man of the Me Community in the 1930s, in: The Journal of Pacific History, 1999, 34, 2
- Peristiwa '77. Taruhannya Identitas (The Incident of '77. To Keep One's Identity), 2000, Jayapura (typescript, unpublished)
- Menuju Papua Baru. Beberapa Pokok Pikiran Sekitar Emansipasi Orang Papua, (Towards a New Papua. Some Reflections on the Emancipation of the Papuans), 2000, Jayapura: Deiyai/Elsham Papua
- Kristus Dalam Budaya Irian Jaya Dewasa Ini: Suatu Perjumpaan Antara Injil dan Pembangunan (Materi Ceramah di depan mahasiswa STISIPOL “Silas Papare”, Jayapura) (Christ in the Culture of Irian Jaya: An Encounter between the Gospel and Development) (Lecture notes for the students of the School for Policy Science Silas Papare), 2000 (unpublished)
- West Papua Peace Zone: A Possible Dream. The Role of West Papuan Church and Local Initiatives in the Human Rights Struggle, paper Conference Religion, Violence and Visions for Peace, The Hague: Institute of Social Studies, 10 and 11 May 2001
- with Yafet Kambai, Yosepha Alomang: Pergulatan Seorang Perempuan Papua Melawan Penindasan (Yosepha Alomong: The Struggle of a Papua Woman to Fight Repression), 2003, Jakarta: Elsham Papua and the European Commission
- West Papua Peace Zone: The Role of the Church in West Papu and Local Initiatives in the Struggle for Human Rights, in: Gerrie ter Haar and James J Busutil (eds), Bridge or Barrier. Religion, Violence and Visions of Peace, 2005, Leiden, Boston: Brill
- Pembunuhan Theys: kematian HAM di tanah Papua (The Murder of Theys: The Death of Human Rights in the Land of the Papuans), 2006, Yogyakarta: Galang Press (the 2003 edition of the book was banned)
- Misi Gereja dan Budaya Kekerasan di Tanah Papua. Hidup dan Karya Pdt. Heraman Saud MTh, Ketua Sinode GKI di Tanah Papua Masa Bakti 1996-2005 (The Mission of the Church and the Culture of Violence in Papua Land. The Life and Work of Rev Herman Saud MTh, Chair of the GKI in Papua Land from 1996 to 2005), 2006, Jayapura: Deiyai.