Social Concerns Notes – April 2015

Govt Takes First Steps To Address Child Labour

Post-Courier 09 April, 2015

Child labour is a growing problem which the Government wants tackled to protect the future generations. It has taken the first step to address this by announcing plans to set up a child labour unit to respond to queries on child labour issues. Work on the unit is almost complete. Next week, Papua New Guinea will be participating in the first sub-regional forum on combating child labour and trafficking, and will share some of its knowledge and practical experiences on these issues. The other objectives are to develop media guidelines/communication strategies for advocating on child labour and trafficking issues, and to develop a sub-regional strategy for action and country strategies. He said there had been projects initiated by international organisations on this issue but they were only for a certain period of time and they were no more to be heard of, so it was important that the government took up the issue and led it. “Do we want the next generation to come out from a decent upbringing?’’ he asked. “In ILO, we are here to provide the support, but it is important for government to provide the support and sustain the activities of child labour for 2015 and onwards,’’ said Mr Samuel.

He said ILO defines child labour as when a child was engaged in the worst forms of employment. It is also a work that impinges on the rights of proper upbringing of a child. He said there were different categories, but one of the clear examples was when a child who was supposed to be in school was made to assume the responsibilities of parents which affected his or her education and future.

Street Kids Reprieve

Post-Courier 20th April, 2015

Homeless children will be taken off the streets of the national capital in the lead-up to the start of the Pacific Games in Port Moresby and housed in shelters as part of long-term plans to rehabilitate them. This was made known at the launch of the revised Lukautim Pikinini Act at city hall recently. The act paves the way for the Government to work in partnership with service providers dealing with child welfare. NCDC’s urban youth desk will be conducting profiles of all the street kids and those who are found to have no parents will be taken off the streets and referred to the service providers, which are mostly non-government organisations, where they will be sheltered and hopefully engaged in some form of activity to keep them busy and off the streets. Those with parents will be taken back to their parents. It is believed that if the program is successful it could be replicated in other towns and cities of PNG experiencing similar challenges. NCD has the country’s largest number of homeless, poverty-stricken street children, who beg for cash at the city’s numerous traffic lights, collect used aluminum cans for recycling or sell cheap Asian-made products in front of shops and offices. It is also known that among these kids are also those who have parents but for various reasons are living off the streets. At the end of the day, these kids return home and return the next day to continue their daily chores on the streets. Experience from around the world show municipal authorities in the host cities of international sporting events building extra shelter to cater for the homeless. It is not known if the program funded by the NCDC will also cater for homeless adults, who are also increasing in numbers. A 2011 International Labour Organisation report on commercial sexual exploitation of children and children working on the streets in Port Moresby identified children who were doing “hazardous work” that included chopping firewood for sale, moving furniture, loading and unloading boxes heavier than their little bodies could carry.

[What will happen to these children after the games? Maybe the government can provide some with a ticket to watch the games they are being hidden from? Ed]

Pilot project brings positive changes

Post-Courier 21st April, 2015

A UNDP trial project that intends to support the government’s development goals in rural PNG is progressing well in terms of improving living standards of local people. More than 1200 villagers of Musendai village in Dreikikir district, East Sepik Province, are seeing positive changes in the areas of income generation, health and education since the inception of the pilot project in 2012. The trial project, which has three year duration, was established by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with K480, 000 funding assistance from the European Union and has been used to initiate a number of basic capacity buildings for the people there. According to the ward councilor Joel Cornelius, the pilot project has brought more improvement to the lives of local people in terms of improved education, improved health services and facilitating seizure of income generating opportunities.

Bougainville Referendum preparations underway

Post Courier, March 29, 2015

Between 2015 and 2020, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is expected to conduct a referendum on the future political status of Bougainville as set out in the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

In preparation for implementing this final pillar of the road map for peace, the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting on March 13 had endorsed the work streams that would be undertaken in the next few months by both the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the National Government.

The work streams endorsed include;

  • Developing a framework of procedures for active participation and consultation with all stakeholders in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and the two governments,
  • Weapons disposal assessment,
  • Develop for the two governments criteria allowing non-resident Bougainvilleans to vote
  • Good governance assessment
  • Establishing a process for determining the question(s) to be put to the people,
  • Establishing the independent Administrative Agency and Financing the Referendum and
  • Review of the provisions for the conduct of the referendum.

At the recent JSB meeting in Arawa, Central Bougainville, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville John Momis urged the Referendum Committee comprising officials of both Governments to meet regularly and move fast to progress referendum preparations.

He said this would allow for important decisions on the date for the referendum, the charter for the conduct of referendum and other necessary milestones regarding the preparations for the conduct of the referendum to be made by the two governments through the respective Bi-Partisan Committee.

Work in progress to set up human rights body

The National, Monday March 30th, 2015

A HUMAN Rights Commission will be established in the country. A project management unit led by Francis Tavatuna is working to implement Government’s decision to set up a commission. It is working on the database to register human rights abuse cases. Tavatuna, in a statement, said the purpose of the unit was to implement the Government’s decision for the setting up and structure of the Human Rights Commission and the Bill on the Organic Law on human rights, plus the amendments to the Constitution. The final reading of the Bill is expected in Parliament in May. “We will start registering cases and look at their merits next month once the database and mechanism are in place,” Tavatuna said. He said they were yet to discuss with the Department of Personal Management where its office would be located – with the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General or Ministry of Community Development. Cabinet has allocated K10.9 million to operate the Human Rights Commission office.

800,000 people in country are disabled, Kapi says

The National, Monday March 30th, 2015

ABOUT 10 per cent or 800,000 of Papua New Guinea’s seven million people have disability, the chairman of the PNG Rehabilitation Centre Brown Kapi says. That means they have to seek extra services so they can make their life as people with disability as normal as possible, he said.

Speaking on National Disability Day yesterday in Port Moresby, Kapi revealed the figures and said: “The Government has to look at how the disabled people will have proper access to basic education, health, the transport system and legal services. Accessibility to basic government service is our concern, but how can our voice be heard?”

It was not about celebrating the day, Kapi said, but looking beyond the disabilities to potential and to become useful and contribute meaningfully towards  development. Under the theme “change begins within a person”, Kapi urged those with disability that they still had the potential to do better.

More than 100 disabled from three Port Moresby electorates – South, North-West and North-East – observed the day at the centre. Kapi said although having the disability policy in place, there was no proper legislation or Act that would empower the people to express themselves easily for normal human activities.

80 per cent of population do not bank

The National, Monday March 30th, 2015

EIGHTY per cent of the population in Papua New Guinea does not have access to financial services, an official says. The figure translates to about five million citizens without the services, with social and economic conditions influencing the exclusion.

Those observations were made by PNG Women in Business chief executive officer Tushari Hewapathiram and Bank of Papua New Guinea Deputy Governor Ben Popoitai during the launch of the Lae branch of Women’s Micro Bank last Friday.

“There are five million people without a bank account in PNG, we need partners like Women’s Micro Bank to help us reach out and bank the five million people in the next 10 to 20 years. We want the whole of PNG to be banking,” Popotai said.

“The majority of the population is out of the formal financial sector, with the statistics claimed that 86 per cent of the population does not have access to financial services,” Hewapathiram said.

“Women account higher percentage of the financial exclusion and the majority of them are financially disempowered,” she said. “Rural women, for example, are disadvantaged on multiple levels as they are often physically far from financial institutions and services, have lower levels of education and lower levels of income.”

The road that became a bridge – but what now for the settlements?

30 March 2015

THE Erima flyover bridge is the first truly remarkable example of public infrastructure built in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific. Costing K160 million, its construction represents a noteworthy achievement for the government and people of PNG. Prior to the construction of the bridge, the Erima shopping centre was linked to the Erima Settlements located near Waigani Golf Course by a couple of tracks that ran through the old Hugo sawmill. Over time these tracks developed into roads and then into a new freeway to be connected to the bridge from the Waigani Arts Centre.

Building a flyover bridge was an expensive way to address traffic congestion in this part of Port Moresby and there is still uncertainty over its use. There is a feeling that the flyover bridge was built just to cater for VIPs during the hosting of international events like the 2018 APEC Summit.

Some people are even more skeptical, suggesting that the bridge is merely an attempt by government to blindfold foreign dignitaries to the filthy and disorganised state of Erima. Whatever, one thing is for sure and that is that the flyover bridge will bring the Erima settlements into full view.

This could spell trouble for the settlers if the government is determined to present a more progressive illusion of Port Moresby to foreign dignitaries. Settlers living near the bridge are also anxious that it will increase the likelihood of attracting development that may jeopardise their wellbeing. Already there are rumours that remnants of the Waigani Arts Centre settlement will be evicted. The scenic views and proximity to Central Waigani and the airport could turn this part of Port Moresby into a most sought-after address. Plans are already in pipeline to turn the old Hugo sawmill into a “city within a city” development. Equipped with all the amenities suitable for the middle to top income earners it is expected to change Erima into a top class suburb.

The flyover bridge at Erima will forever be remembered as the road that became a bridge. There are

those who call Erima home who are sensing that change is coming that will alter their lives forever.

For them it is important that the government clearly informs them about Erima’s future. In the absence of information settlers live in uncertainty and anxiety. For these people it is time to brace themselves for what could be a most challenging and life-altering event.

Thousands take part in annual pilgrimage

Post Courier, April 07, 2015

More than 5000 faithful of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations came together to walk the path that Christ took on the way to his crucifixion. Thousands flock to the first station at Murray Barracks, while others waited at their respective stations enroute to St Johns parish at Tokarara, where a mass honouring the cross was celebrated with Archbishop John Ribat being the main celebrant. The seven hour walk had people from all walks of life, health conditions, age and race walk together as one in the steps of the man who brought them all together. Noticed in the crowd were pregnant mothers, very young children, elderly and very light skinned people turning red in the hot sun. There was a young albino lady who was caught sacrificing her comfort, all out of love. The streets of Port Moresby came to a stand still as the big white cross was carried through, as thousands followed in prayer. Those who took part had their own reasons. Robert from St Joseph said Jesus at his time endured more gruelling pain than what we are all experiencing now. “We are commemorating the walk of humility and the pain he bore to Calvary were he died,” Robert said. The young albino teenager, Anne from St Michaels, said her sacrifice to literally turn red in the sun was a way to remember that Christ went through a lot to die on the cross for her sins.

Schoolgirl lodges porn complaint

The National, Tuesday April 7th, 2015

A SCHOOLgirl has lodged a complaint with police against fellow students who have been circulating a pornographic image on their mobile phones, claiming it was her in it. The complaint was lodged on March 23 at the Badili police station in Port Moresby. The police station commander was not available for comment. But a police officer at the station familiar with the case said the girl had accused her fellow students of circulating the photo of a naked woman on their mobile phones. “The accusers were circulating the photo accusing and taunting the victim of being the one in the photo,” the officer said.

The officer said the girl who came from a strong Christian family was humiliated and reported the matter to her parents. “The parents then reported the matter to us,” he said. He said they had referred the matter to the school to sort out. “We have referred the matter to the school to conduct their own investigation and solve this matter at their level,” the officer said. “But if the board cannot solve the matter, we will conduct a thorough investigation and lay criminal charges.” He said police planned “to round up all the (students) accusers and confiscate their mobile phones to determine (who was circulating) the picture”.

Operation ‘Weedim Grass’ strong

Post Courier, April 28, 2015

MARIJUANA plants that estimated at street value of K50, 000 has been uprooted thanks to Simbu Drug Squad’s “Weedim Grass” operation. Commander detective Yatefa Welis disclosed “weedim grass” operation is in its third year and the outcome of the operation were impressive. More than 300 people were convicted and more than 500 cylinder bottles were destroyed including uprooting of more than 115 thousand marijuana trees in less than two years of operation. “Drug squad here in Simbu are doing all its best trying to weed out marijuana cultivations. Highlands region is known to grow some of the finest marijuana plants therefore we are using every resources available to track down people growing these plants and weed out everything grown,” he said. Last week, among other duties of the operation, Welis said in one of the hill tops in a village between Korofeigu and Kintinu along the Okuk highway in the Eastern Highlands Province, a total of 453 marijuana plants were uprooted. “That’s around street value of K50, 000 plus,” Welis said. In other places where “weedim grass” operation has touched with confiscation of illegal items such as cylinder bottles (etc) and uprooting of marijuana plants includes Watabum, Asaro, Daulo, and Upper Bena.

Canada mining firm compensates Papua New Guinea women after alleged rapes

The National, Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Canada-based gold mining company is paying compensation to a group of tribal women and girls who allege they were assaulted and raped by police and security guards at the company’s mine in Papua New Guinea. The 11 women, who were aged between 14 and in their 80s when the alleged crimes took place, are among 137 local Enga women and girls who had previously been compensated by Barrick Gold Corporation, after allegations of sexual violence, including gang rape and imprisonment, by armed security guards and police officers at the Porgera mine.

Most of the 137 women accepted the company’s offer of a compensation package under a “remedy framework” set up by Barrick as an alternative to the local judicial system, after a Human Rights Watch report in 2011 identified a pattern of extreme sexual violence by security personnel at the mine.

But 11 of the women initially refused and argued that the compensation – on average 23,630 kina, which amounts to $8,743 – was not adequate to remedy the multiple and continuing traumas they had suffered. One, who was 14 at the time of the alleged rape in 2010, said what happened to her halted her education and ruined her reputation and chance at marriage in her culture. She said she wanted sufficient compensation to start a life for herself and daughter elsewhere.

One of the 11 women represented by ERI, who is now 18, said she and two friends had been asked by mobile police officers to make string bags for them in 2010. But instead of taking them to the ATM machine for payment, the armed officers took them in the police car to their living quarters at the mine site, where they were raped. Mobile police at the mine are not employed by Barrick directly but have a support agreement with the company.

In a statement provided by ERI, the woman said: “The rape has caused me to lose many important things in my life. I used to be a top student in my fifth grade class. I was good at school, and I enjoyed it. I could have really made something of myself if I had been able to stay in school. But after I was raped, everyone knew and my classmates were always talking about me. It was too difficult to deal with, so I dropped out. I tried to go back last year, but the kids said such bad things about me. I was so ashamed that I stopped going.”

She later married, but when her husband found out about the rape, they divorced, leaving her to look after a two-year-old daughter alone.

Solomons MPs get tax free pay

SolomonStar Published: 24 April 2015

MEMBERS of Parliament are now enjoying tax free salaries as of April 1 this year. Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) awarded the tax free benefits to MPs under recent changes it made to MPs entitlements. That’s beside the tax free $400,000 terminal grant each MP gets after a term in parliament. Under recent awards, MPs’ discretionary fund was also increased from $300,000 a year to $500,000. In addition, basic salaries of MPs have been increased by 3.5% backdated to April 2014 and 4% from this April onwards.

Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) yesterday described the MP’s tax free salary as “a first in the developing world”. It estimated that the Government will lose about $2.2 million each year from tax on MPs’ salaries. Meanwhile, TSI is calling on the government to remove Members of Parliament (MPs) in the composition of the Parliamentary Entitlement Commission (PEC).

Officer clarifies refugee policy

The National, Thursday April 9th, 2015

CHIEF Migration Officer Mataio Rabura has clarified that there is no refugee policy yet to allow asylum seekers in Manus to settle in the country. Rabura said the policy had been drafted and awaiting clarifications from the Australian government. “After the policy is finalised, it will be submitted to Cabinet to be approved,” he said. “In the meantime, asylum seekers we have approved to come out of the detention centre are now undergoing an orientation programme. This is to get them familiar with PNG society, culture, politics – basically a general knowledge of PNG.” Rabura was responding to an ABC report on Iranian asylum seeker Reza Mollagholipour, a civil engineer, who claims he has not been allowed by immigration officials to get a job in PNG. Rabura said refugees would be assisted with job placements arranged through Immigration after they had successfully undergone the orientation programme. “He (Mollagholipour) still needs an interpreter. Therefore he needs further English language lessons,” Rabura said.

Asylum-seekers heading home from Manus: Peter O’Neill

Post Courier, April 08, 2015, Story courtesy of (PINA) Pacific Island News Association

Asylum-seekers at Manus Island processing centre are choosing to return to their home countries in greater numbers than is being made public, according to Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. The unreported flow back to countries of origin comes as Australia’s nearest neighbour claims a growing acceptance among asylum-seekers about the processes adopted by PNG.

“We are quietly sending more people back to their home countries than has been published,” he said during a visit to Melbourne last week. Official figures released by Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders show eight Iraqis, six Iranians and one Lebanese agreed to return in February.

The number of asylum-­seekers in the Manus centre fell from 1023 at the end of January to 1004 at the end of February, and is likely to have fallen below 1000 last month ­ although the March figures are not available. In February, 298 interim assessments were completed, with 163 asylum-seekers found to be refugees and claims by 135 rejected. Eleven moved into a new transit centre built to house those given positive assessments, at East Lorengau on Manus.

Zurenuoc: World Leaders Will Be Safe

PostCourier 09 April, 2015

Highest level of security will be provided to world leaders attending the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders meeting in Port Moresby. The APEC Coordination Authority said this when revealing the proposed venues for the 2018 APEC Summit. Its chairman Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc said these meeting precincts would be able to offer the highest level of security and protection that will ensure the safety of leaders, ministers, delegates and members of the public. The 21 APEC member leaders to attend included presidents and prime ministers of United States, Russia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Korea, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Brunei, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand. He said the focus for APEC activity during leaders’ week would be the soon to be built Hilton Hotel and the Ela Beach/Paga Hill Ring Road. A cruise ship would be moored at the existing mooring facility with requirement to provide energy, water and sanitary services. He said the APEC calendar is a full year of events and meetings with the first senior officials meeting likely take place in January 2018 so as not to conflict with Chinese New year. He said the APEC Leaders’ Meeting was likely to take place over the weekend of November 17-18 in 2018 and being a weekend would minimise disruption to residents and businesses.

Islanders Running Out Of Water

PNGLOOP, 6th April, 2015

Weeks of no rain in Manus is having an effect on islanders who rely heavily on rain catchment for their livelihood. Mbuke islanders on the south cost of Manus have resorted to rationing the little fresh water catchment they have from the village community tanks that is now supplying them. A local on the island, Kiliwi Kilangis, told PNG loop it has been over a month since it last rained on the island and their rain catchments have run out too. “Our gardens will dry out soon too,” he says. Another local, Chalapan Matangiau,  says last week the last of the seven community tanks were being used to supply water to households that have run out of fresh drinking water. For now, the people have resorted to village wells for the washing and laundry while they continue rationing fresh drinking water.

Students empowered to fight corruption

Post Courier, April 20, 2015

STUDENTS from 10 schools in Port Moresby opted to use their holiday to participate in a Media Smart Youth workshop to develop their knowledge in and how to use media to advocate against corruption. The workshop, which is a collaborative effort between Transparency International (PNG) and Youths Against Corruption Association (YACA), is one of the many activities aimed at getting young people to fight against corruption. Emily Taule, the executive director of Transparency (PNG) International, said a lot of their work is done through coalitions with other organisations.

“The Youth Against Corruption is part of that coalition where we aim to build relationships, to maintain those relationships and moreover through YACA to empower the people to take up an active choice against corruption,” Ms Taule said. As part of their program, the student participants were put into groups, where they had to use different mediums of the media to put what they learnt into practice. The groups shared their produced pieces in the likes of a blog, video, photography and a catchy radio jingle.

PNG’s position on the international corruption index continues to be very bad, and paints a bad image of the country.

Theft of dinghies hinder delivery of health services

Post Courier April 23, 2015

SEVEN dinghies belonging to health authorities in Milne Bay Province have been stolen since the beginning of this year, provincial police chief Joseph Morehari said yesterday. Mr Morehari said only one has been recovered, while the other seven may be in the hands of sea pirates who frequent Milne Bay waters. The thefts of Health Department dinghies had alarmed the provincial health authority chief executive officer Billy Naidi, who said yesterday that medical emergency referrals to the provincial hospital in Alotau had been affected. Mr Naidi said that two dinghies bought by the local MP had just been stolen, but he could not confirm if they were being used for sea piracy.

“Stealing of dinghies is a common occurrence from time to time in a year, not necessarily used by criminals,” he said. He said despite the thefts, health authorities were managing to service their mobile clinics. Chief Superintendant Morehari said one East Cape villager, allegedly involved in the theft of the dinghy which had been recovered, had been arrested and locked up.

Four accused of witchcraft in highlands; Locals threaten to burn them to death

Post Courier, April 23, 2015   Story courtesy of ABC Radio Australia

Four people in the highlands region are accused of witchcraft and could be burned to death, local human rights activists say. Those accused are two women and two men from Kaiwe, near Mount Hagen in Western Highlands. The two women were tortured in an attempt to get them to confess and locals threatened to burn them if a witch finder, known as a “glassman”, said they were sorcerers.

Local resident and human rights defender Paul Petrus told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program villagers collected tyres in preparation for burning the women. “If the glassman comes and proves that these people are sorcerers, they will burn them to death … with tyres to burn them,” he said.

Kamane Wauga, senior program officer with Oxfam PNG’s sorcery program in Western Highlands, confirmed the women were tortured. “While they were tortured they’ve been interrogated … about whether they are sorcerers and how they performed the sorcery, what were the implements,” he said.

He said the two women were now living with relatives, waiting for the glassman’s verdict.

Maggie Truwai, a Catholic church worker in Mount Hagen, said the accusations of witchcraft began when locals started dying because of disease and the community felt it must be because of black magic. “There were a few deaths, mostly at the beginning of this year … so now the community … say sorcery was one of the causes of these deaths,” she said. Police were called into Kaiwe on Sunday to respond to the situation. “The police are aware of it … and when the torturing was in progress they went in and told them to stop and faced those at the scene,” Mr Petrus said. “The public who were there they told them to go away. “Then they came back and told them to stop their behaviour or they will be brought to justice if they are caught.” Mr Petrus said he spoke to the provincial police commander who told him it was difficult to identify who was behind the actions .

“The police, they can’t really get the job done and actually rescue these two women and take them out and put them in a safe location,” he said. “It’s a bit complicated when the police are negotiating with the community.”

Big challenge for higher education

The National, Monday April 27th, 2015

THE number of Grade 12 graduates will increase from about 21,000 last year to 114,028 by 2050, says the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

Malakai Tabar said that was based on past statistics from the Education Department.

Of these, it would be fair to estimate that at least 30 per cent (34,208) will likely seek entry into universities and colleges, he said.

“This estimated demand is likely to increase even further, perhaps even double or triple.”

Tabar said this would eventuate: “If we fully-factor-in the effect of recent policy and social changes, such as the Government’s tuition fee free policy, removal of various exit points in secondary schooling and the fact that generally parents are seen wanting their children to stay in school longer.”

Tabar said the higher and technical education sector clearly had a huge task on hand.

“Our challenge is to provide sufficient student places to accommodate these increased demands and ensure that quality and relevance of our academic and training programmes do not decrease but increase.

“We have to ensure that these places are for study in academic and training programmes that will result in graduates who are highly-competent needed in the country.”

“This is the only way forward to create a brighter future for PNG and in particular a smart, fair, wise, healthy and happy society.”

The Word of God — How do we understand the term?

[Note, with various overly “literal” undertandings of the term circulating these days associated with the King James Bible, here is an explanation in the New Jerusalem Biblical Commentary (p. 1033.)]

“This traditional formula (Word of God), apparently simple, is extremely complex and polyvalent. Some Protestant evangelicals affirm an almost physical identity between the Scriptures and words actually spoken by God, rejecting as inadequate the view that the Scriptures attest to the word of God. Other Christians can affirm that the Bible is the word of God while maintaining that God has never communicated in words. Some Protestant theologians affirm that the word of God is a dynamic reality; accordingly, Jesus is preeminently the Word of God (Barth). The Scriptures are truly the word of God when they become alive in proclamation and preaching (Bultmann). Cardinal Martini has helpfully distinguished various senses of the expression “word of God.” Basically it suggests divine communicability. Thus it can refer to (1) the events of salvific history because Hebrew dabar means “word, event, reality.” (2) the spoken message of divine emissaries, esp. the prophets and Jesus; (3) the person of Jesus who is the Word of God; (4) Christian preaching; (5) God’s general message to human beings; (6) the Bible.

Though canonized by long usage, “word of God”should not be used of the Scriptures without further hermeneutical reflection.. True, it highlights the divine origins of the biblical communication and expresses its reality and force. Nevertheless, the “word of God” in the Jewish and Christian traditions is radically different from the divine oracles of ancient Hellenistic and Near Eastern religions — it is intended not simply to impart truth but to encourage, console, challenge, etc. Since the words contained in the Scriptures are, in the only written reality they possess, human words, “word of God” is necessarily analogous language. A distance is maintained conceptually between the scriptural expression and the self-communication of God in itself, even in the case of the prophets. Theologically it is less confusing to state that the Scriptures witness to the Word of God.”

The Passion of Papua New Guinea. Easter Message 2015.

By Archbishop Douglas Young, Mount Hagen

This Easter, occurring as we prepare for the fortieth anniversary of our Independence, I have been thinking not only of the passage of Jesus’ body from suffering, pain and death to a glorified body, but also of the passage of his soul, from rejection, betrayal, mockery and abandonment to a “glorified soul”.

We are familiar with the physical sufferings of Jesus: his torture through beatings by soldiers in the miscarriage of justice called his “trial”, his scourging, his crowning with thorns, his carrying of the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, his falls, his humiliating public stripping, his being nailed to the cross, his struggles to breathe, and eventually his death, followed by further damage to his body by a spear being thrust in his side. It should not be too difficult for us to relate our own aches and pains, as well as our own life threatening injuries and illnesses to some aspects of the physical passion of Jesus. There is hardly anything that can happen to our body that is not reflected in some way in the suffering of Christ.

We can see similar scars on the body of the nation itself: a justice system which appears to be failing the poor, all kinds of unnecessary suffering as a result of an ailing heath system, poor roads, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and crimes at all levels of society. We can even see the current crisis with TB as part of Jesus’ own struggles to breathe as he loses the strength needed to push himself upwards. Sadly, there are also people in our society who have lost the traditional respect for life and feel that they have a right to strip and torture others, especially the weak and defenseless, in order to obtain “confessions” of sanguma. I am struck by the close parallels of what was done to Jesus and what is still done today to those accused of sorcery. That should be enough evidence of who is really behind these allegations!

And at a time when we are all appalled at the unjust death sentence imposed on Jesus, we are still debating whether we have the right to kill our own citizens in the name of justice, arguing along with Caiaphas that it is better that some die to keep the nation safe

At Easter all of Jesus’ physical suffering is vindicated. It is glorified. The physical scars of Jesus remain after the resurrection. But they are now glorified. They now find their true meaning and in some ways are taken into the divine. This will happen to all of us and our nation also. Whatever the physical suffering we endure in this life will find its ultimate meaning when we rise with Christ.

Btu Jesus also suffered greatly in his soul, and possibly this suffering was even greater than the physical. He was rejected by the leaders and teachers of the people, those very people that he had advised his followers to obey but not to imitate. He was betrayed by someone in his own inner circle, someone he trusted completely, even to the extent of entrusting him with the finances of the community. He was then abandoned by his closest friends who were not there for him when he needed them. Even the one to whom he had entrusted the leadership of his followers denied ever knowing him. Then he was mocked by soldiers and the crowd, making a fool of him. Ultimately he felt abandoned, not only by his disciples but even by his Father.

This “soul-suffering” also found its meaning and purpose in the resurrection. His own rejection became the means of his including all people everywhere in the infinite mercy of God. His own betrayal became the magnificent sign of his unconditional love for all us sinners. The mockery he experienced is fulfilled when his name is lifted higher than any other, and his sense of abandonment became the sacrament of his intimate union with his Father and with all creation.

As with the physical glorification we as individuals and as a nation can also look forward to a spiritual glorification. All our sufferings of soul, our loneliness, our hurts, our failures, our own sense of rejection and abandonment, even betrayal by those who we trusted and were close to us, can also find their meaning in the resurrection of Christ. We don’t even have to wait till our physical resurrection for this to happen. In Christ all suffering finds meaning. John’s gospel shows us how everything done to destroy Jesus actually brought about his glory. He was always in control. Everything that seems to be dragging us down is actually lifting us up if we bring it to Jesus on the cross.

This must be a source of great joy for us as individuals and as a nation. It is the true meaning of Easter. All will be well. We can continue to live in hope and allow our hope to transform our actions away from selfishness, corruption, violence of all kinds, and the exclusion of the people we don’t like. No suffering is too great for the healing hand of Christ to transform it into something beautiful, wonderful, and life-giving. If only we have the faith.

We have the choice to go with this tide of Christ’s victory and participate already in God’s plan for our fulfillment, or waste our time and energy in fighting against it. I can assure you that peace and blessings follow from the decision to give your life and sufferings to Christ and then live a life in harmony with his plan.

In this spirit I wish all the people of the Archdiocese and all the people of Papua New Guinea a truly happy and holy Easter. I pray that all our individual and social ills may be transformed by Christ in his Easter glory and become the source of a renewed journey of discipleship with him. Let us become better people forming a better nation.

Happy Easter!

See Evil of capital punishment: Bishops pronounce on death penalty,

Bishop Arnold Orowae | Catholic Bishops Conference. [See url below for the full statement]

On the Contribution of Sport

Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference Of PNG/SI

With the Pacific Games coming soon to Papua New Guinea, sport will be a topic of interest for many people. At this time your Bishops wish to offer a reflection on the value of sport and ways that we can all benefit. The Church recognises sport to be one of the great institutions of our society that helps individuals realise their human potential and builds up the bonds of the community, fostering comunal initiative and responsibility. Sport contributes to physical and mental health and wellbeing. It teaches people, particularly young people skills and resilience. When youth become involved in sport, they devote their energies to teaming together in a healthy environment, forgetting about antisocial activities such as violence and crime.

Sport brings people together in new ways. Parents and teachers volunteer their time to organise events. Women may be spectators in many public events, but with sport in the village, in games such as volleyball and basketball, they play equally along with males. Sporting contests often provide special facilities for disabled athletes – a consideration that could well be matched in other spheres of life.

Sport opens us up to the wider world. Many of us eagerly watch the “State of Origin” being played in Australia. Back home, how many of us feel proud when one of our athletes wins a medal in international events such as the Commonwealth Games. Athletes such as Dika Toua or Stephen Kari have become household symbols of our achievement in the eyes of the world.

When interactions offer fun, competition, skill and goal-setting, there is a fertile environment for personal development. Sport builds character. It teaches us discipline as we learn to play by the rules. When sports teams promote fairness, firmness and moral courage, there exists a wonderful space in which to help young people grow into adulthood: a form of initiation where the “elders” (coaches or teachers) set goals and boundaries in a safe, caring and no-nonsense setting. In such settings the benefits flow not just to the local community, but to the nation as a whole.

But there is also another side to sport that can bring sadness rather than delight. We should keep in mind that special events come and go but normal life goes on. It is important to keep a balance between the value of sport and sporting events and other goals of society. Some countries have been so keen to project a good image on the international stage that their people have been left suffering and paying bills for years afterwards. Let us make sure this does not happened to PNG.

Sometimes there is violence on the field or among spectators. On occasion there is gambling and betting and associated abuse of drugs and alcohol. We must guard against such antisocial activities that ruin the good name of sport. Also we are saddened to see some sports events scheduled on Sunday mornings, which are a time that most Christians devote to Sunday worship. We ask that sports managers try to keep the Lord’s Day holy, having in mind the words of St Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:25) “Every athlete concentrates completely on training in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.”

Bishop Arnold Orowae, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference PNG/SI, 23rd April 2015

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