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Identifying the causes of violence: avoiding extremism in PNG

Gang violence (Vlad Sokhin)FIDELIS SUKINA

An entry in the Rivers Prize for
Writing on Peace & Harmony

THE world is a place of diversity but one thing is for certain, we all have our own views and these can lead to struggles for their recognition, sometimes they’re violent.

Many fights for recognition go to the extreme and a lot of the people within Papua New Guinea suffer because of this.

Look at the conflicts on the television news each night: the bloodthirsty tactics of ISIS fighting for recognition and influence over other Islamic groups and seeking its own caliphate.

It’s hard to comprehend and impossible to excuse the methods they use.

Yet, despite air strikes, ISIS forges on and gains momentum in its onslaught for Islamic conquest.

Frankly it’s situations like this that make you see PNG as a fortunate nation.

We may have a diverse culture, but in general we seem to be respectful to others despite differences in religion and ethnicity.

But nothing is perfect in this human controlled world.

When violence becomes the chosen way to topple the opposition, there is an issue. We should not use extremist measures to create a society.

We see Boko Haram in northern Nigeria (the group’s name literally means “Western Culture is Islamically forbidden”) trying to use violence and kidnapping to change society.

It wants to establish Islamic rule from its Nigerian base but it’s hard to impose such rule on a country which is half Muslim and half Christian.

We hope to see none of these extremist groups entering our beautiful shores.

So what can PNG learn from such extremist ways that have been adopted overseas?

It’s all about fair democratic process managed to avoid the poverty and inequality that can lead to frustrations and the downfall of society.

One thing is certain, violence and extremism is not the way to peace.

PNG is quite a small nation but our reputation is at risk – how we are portrayed on the internet can be astounding.

We are seen as one of the most uninhabitable places for expatriates. It is said again and again that raskols run rampant on our streets. Port Moresby is compared with Baghdad and Mexico City. Corruption at national and the local level is rife.

It’s a shame that some of our youths seem to have gone insane. The number of rapes and killings is excessive and tainting our image with foreigners.

A case in point is the recent attempted kidnapping and sexual mistreatment of three female staff of the National Broad Casting Corporation.

Then there was last year’s Black Cat Track incident which saw seven Australians and a New Zealander falling victim to an ambush by locals. Two local porters were killed and trekkers sustained spear and machete wounds.

As a people we are not extremists but we still instigate violence and this must stop. We have a good democratic system and abundant resources but we are vulnerable to ourselves.

We are a buffer state in the south-west Pacific and we do not want to become a failed state.

What we need is to review our behavior. We wonder why Australia is strict on us when entering that country. Well it’s because of our bad reputation and the way we’re portrayed down south it’s hard to convince people to respond to us otherwise.

We hail our abundance of resources yet our people suffer.

We have more than enough healthy Papua New Guineans who can break bricks, lay stone walls and drive heavy equipment. These are people who are exactly the people we need to build this country.

If they will be earning something, they will stay out of trouble. Yet we continue to see an influx of workers from Asia. It breaks my heart to see this.

We are a nation of plenty, we do not want civil war triggered by an unstable society.

Living in peace may sometimes seem like a long shot, but we all can contribute to a peaceful society by identifying the causes of violence and creating better opportunity for others.


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Barbara Short

Thank you Fidelis. This is an excellent article.

It is a good reminder that violence is not the way to solve problems. Having experienced a few riots at Keravat NHS and stood amongst the students while they threw rocks off the road and smashed the buildings, and tried to reason with them to stop, I know that violence is futile.

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