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How Papua's Lani people view the world


CANBERRA – The word Kunume derives from the language of the Lani people in the highlands of Indonesian Papua.

It refers to the Lani people’s sacred men’s house, a place where political, religious, economic, social, cultural, legal and educational matters are discussed.

Children are trained and equipped with ancient knowledge and wisdom in this institution. Women are prohibited from entering Kunume for various cultural reasons.

This once most highly respected institution is starting to lose its authority as the older generations die and the younger generations move to modern cities, no longer upholding traditional values and wisdom.

Despite the significance of Kunume to the Lani people, outsiders see a grass hut and nothing more.

Perhaps they think this is a temporary house for primitive people somewhere at the periphery of a civilisation devoid of moral virtue, a view often propagated in colonial literature.

They do not know how Kunume played a key role in maintaining order for our ancestors for millennia, prior to modern destruction. Our ancestors saw the world as a sacred, mystical place.

From relentless inquiry into the nature of things, the modern human has uncovered the secret laws that govern the natural world. With these discoveries has come an inflated sense of power and ego, and a motivation to exploit the Earth, perhaps towards imminent, cataclysmic destruction.

Science and technology have given us the conveniences of modern life and enabled us to explore the universe beyond our backyards. But it has also taken away many precious things in the process.

We have built global institutions based on the Kunume, but are no longer much concerned about Wone [divine wisdom].

We have built what should be global Kunume for humanity, such as the United Nations, but even this powerful institution is used to exploit the original humans of this planet by industrial countries like the US, the UK, China and Russia. The Wone has been lost.

As the world faces unprecedented crises, we need to question everything that is accepted as absolute truth.

We now know that no one on this planet has the ultimate authority to give a moral verdict to humankind. The so-called ‘absolute’ is understood differently by all humans in their respective cultural worldviews.

This doesn’t mean that an absolute truth does not exist; it just means that such truth cannot be known within our current limitations. The only thing that seems absolute at the moment is the differences in our own truths.

It is tragic how some groups have declared themselves as sole arbiters of absolute truth (often in the name of science) and are forcing the rest of mankind to accept this. Non-scientific and irrational information in the knowledge system have been rejected.

I have now created a website to share ancient knowledge and wisdom, Kunume Wone that is often rejected for being irrelevant in the modern era.

The word Wone derives from the Lani language. It isn’t simply a single word, idea, or belief. It is understood to be the principle of understanding life – not just human life, but all life, both visible and invisible, fallible and infallible.

Wone is the primordial intelligent source of energy that guides creation. It is the principle of order and chaos, good and bad, light and darkness. It is the science of understanding and a mechanism by which the entire cosmic phenomenon is perceived and understood.

That is why Lani elders say, “To know Wone is to know life; to understand Wone is to understand the structure of creation with all its complexities and fullness.”

Kunume is the place where Wone is kept, discussed, shared and taught. The elders say that all institutions built by humans were to safeguard Wone so the children of humankind can be taught about the principle of life and creation.

Unfortunately, the Lani elders say we are now entering into a dark age of chaos because the institution of Kunume has been destroyed, and Wone no longer resides in Kunume or in people’s hearts.

The Lani people view Jesus of Nazareth as the full incarnation of Wone; he embodied Wone’s principle and transformed his worldview through Wone’s sprit and power; he became the living Wone.

That is why he made radical statements like, I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the vine, and you are the branches; I am the bread of life; I am the living water.”

He was the eternal primordial energy out of which creation emerges. He was the embodiment of Wone, the source of what modern cosmologists refer to as the genesis of creation, the ‘Big Bang’.

Kunume Wone is not about specific rules, ideas, information or knowledge concocted by the men in the hut; it is the transcendent principle of knowing and understanding Wone that our ancestors protected in Kunume from time immemorial.

It is the blueprint of creation written in the DNA and the soul of all creation as understood by our ancestors.

Kunume is the house built for that blueprint – the Wone. This is not to say that this way of seeing the world is absolute – what I am saying here is that this is how the Lani people of the highlands of Papua view the world.

I strongly encourage all original first nation family, clans and tribes to revitalise their own ancient cosmologies, knowledge and wisdom.

We thought that science and technology would take us to the next stage of civilisation, but instead they came in the name of civilisation, took our lands, devastated our ancestral homes and eliminated our cultures.

It is time to return to our original Kunume and rediscover ourselves with Wone because that’s who we are, where we come from and what our ancestors protected for millennia because it was sacred.


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Paul Oates

Talk about a lesson in the facts of life, Phil. I see in today's news that the Nigerian city of Lagos has a known population of 24 million.

That's three times the estimated population of PNG (for some reason we don't have an exact figure) in just one city.

Every parent who produces more than the same number of children to replace each parent is contributing to the world over population. How will all these new people be fed and looked after? Where will they find meaningful work?

The excess food production in places like North America or Australia and used for 'Food Aid' is dependent on highly variable rainfall. Just wait till those in charge of the new dams on the Mekong and the Blue Nile start manipulating the water flows.

Climate change is going to extend to climate variations and this is going to severely impact of the ability to feed and water the already over populated world. Wait till the sea levels rise and the available, arable land around the edges of the continents is further reduced.

Yet no one in government is apparently prepared to grasp the nettle (holimpas salat) and speak out about this travesty of human nature.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Sometimes you have to step back and place philosophical arguements like this one in context. If you do that you ultimately come to the last arguement of all.

Scientists tell us that our first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk on two legs.

They were flaking crude stone tools by 2.5 million years ago.

Modern humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. They were descended from Homo erectus, an extinct species of human that lived between 1.9 million and 135,000 years ago.

As humans we represent less than 1 percent of all the species that have ever lived on the planet since life first began 3.8 billion years ago.

Humans are a blip in the historical timeline of the earth.

We are also a unique evolutionary aberration that now seems to be on the cusp of decline - ironically caused by our own spectacular success as a species.

There are now too many of us and we are rapidly depleting the planet’s resources while destroying the climatic and environmental systems that support us.

Mammal species typically last around one million years before going extinct. Our Neanderthal ancestors were around for only 300,000 years while Homo erectus survived for about 1.6 million years.

You could argue that our species' intelligence gives us a survival edge which could make us more likely to beat those odds.

Unfortunately, we’ve used that very intelligence to outsmart ourselves.

While in the normal course of events we could reasonably expect to survive as a species for another 250,000 years, or even longer, our intelligence-driven stupidity is likely to shorten that figure considerably.

As we chew up the planet’s resources, trash our environment and irrevocably alter our climate we may not even survive for another few hundred years.

If that is the case what does it mean?

In terms of the life of the planet it means very little.

We may think we are special but in terms of species survival we are not particularly remarkable.

One day we will become extinct. It is an inevitability. The only real question is when will it happen?

When we are gone the planet will simply shrug off our momentary existence, repair the damage we have done and continue merrily on its way. The vast cities and other edifices we have built will simply crumble and disappear.

Assuming there is still some form of intelligent life on the planet, there will come a day when it will be hard to find any evidence that we existed at all.

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