NEWCASTLE - The Catholics were the first missionaries in the upper Simbu in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and some got killed for their trouble.
Then the Lutherans came to Kundiawa in central Simbu and built a church mission station that remains to this day.
The missionaries were infused with a desire to bring the message of God to the 'heathens', a zealousness which is still seen today with evangelical Protestants spreading the word using pop music and, in their fund-raising back home, with fake news about Christianising the 'savages'.
In PNG overall, these 150 years of Christian contact have had a profound impact on traditional culture - in big ways and bizarre ways.
Missionaries offended by bare breasts and instituted the Mother Hubbard, or meri blouse, introducing skin complaints along with prudery.
And of course polygamy was beyond the pale.
Full membership of the church was refused to men who had more than one wife.
So a long-lasting means of organising a coherent social order in which every person would be looked after was (in most cases but not all) summarily despatched.
And sanguma (sorcery) was ostensibly replaced by a belief in Satan and his evil spirits, which for many people represented nothing more than a change of name.
It is sickening that women and girls are still tortured and burned in the name of Christ.
So what has Papua New Guinean society gained?
We replaced one belief system with another, and behaviours were still largely unchanged.
I don't think we have moved forward much when men can still torture and burn a suspected witch.
More than 90% of Papua New Guineans claim to be Christian, but abuse of women and girls and the most vulnerable people continues with PNG ranked amongst the worst in the world for this type of violence.
We know what the churches did in material terms, such as in education and health, but what did Christianity bring in moral terms?
Nice paintings, fake Christmas celebrations and a belief that we must distrust people who are different from us, other faiths for example.
Draw your own conclusions. I'm having a ‘no-Christmas’ Christmas.