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Selasa, 02 Juli 2013

Pedalling Prairies for West Papua

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After riding his bicycle 160 kilometres into Regina on Saturday, Jeremy Bally was understandably tired.

Nevertheless, he lugged his multimedia presentation to a local church and did what he'll spend the next few months doing as he rides his bicycle all over the world - spreading the word about the plight of the West Papuan people.

A West Papuan flag waving from the back of his bicycle trailer, the Bowen Island B.C. native brings with him a unique, arts-based approach to activism and awareness - interviews of political refugees from the country, turned into animation.

Oh, and a ukulele.

Earlier last week he was in Saskatoon and next he will be in Brandon, Man., explaining a conflict that isn't really on the radar of most Canadians.

"I don't think this conflict is more important than any other, but I feel it's important to make a positive contribution to this world," he said in Regina on Sunday,
"I think the key word is 'focus,' and to bring that focus onto West Papua."

Bally has his short spiel about West Papua down pat - he gives a geographical context ("just north of Australia, in Indonesia") and then explains how a 50-year-long conflict has
taken the lives of between 150,000 and 500,000 ethnic West Papuan people.
"A lot of overseas observers have called it a slow genocide," he said.

"The reason there's such a great disparity in the numbers is because media aren't really able to access the country and human rights groups have never really had a consistent mandate."

There are three aspects to Bally's world tour: raising awareness, fundraising for five women's co-op centres in West Papua and encouraging political action.

"I met with (Saskatoon - Humboldt MP) Brad Trost when I was in Saskatoon, and that was pretty encouraging for me," Bally said.

"If we have enough people asking their MPs about this conflict and what Canada is doing, then it will become something on the radar and something more and more people will start thinking about."

Bally's journey will take him across the Prairies to Montreal, then to the north-eastern U.S., Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia.

"Ultimately, the goal is peace and a recognition of human rights," he said.
More information is available on Bally's website at www.pedallingforpapua. com. Twitter/ LP_EmmaGraney

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