The continuing mission of a man of peace
A declaration of distant love

Oro harmony: Say sori before the sun sets

(The Man Who Would Not Die)
Peace-making in Oro culture (Photo from 'The Man Who Would Not Die')

| Ples Singsing

PORT MORESBY – Early in the evening of Saturday30 January at around 7:30, my family hosted small peace-making ceremony here in Port Moresby.

Leading into the new year, there had been some misunderstanding amongst my older siblings’ daughters that resulted in dispute and disharmony between several family members.

Conflicts are bound to occur within families members and in our tradition kastom wok, observing customary practice, was the only way to resolve the disharmony.

In the village setting, disputes were always settled by the elders. They were full of wisdom and well respected by everyone.

Each time they spoke, or gave orders, everyone obeyed them.

It was also common for a person of high status in society to initiate disputes because they were seen to be capable of settling them.

People often went to their gardens to harvest food produce or checked their backyards for betel nut, coconuts or livestock to slaughter. These items were commonly used in the settlement of disputes.

Here in the city, you have to budget for such peace-making activity by sacrificing your wage or salary. This can be an expensive exercise.

In fact, the money, time and resources spent on kastom wok needs to equate the value of the damage done.

People need to feel the pain of sacrificing so much to understand the importance of respecting one another.

In the case of our family’s kastom wok, my husband and I did what we could. We decided to be the bridge that would provide the link to enable everyone to reconcile

Even though conflicts in families are inevitable, it is not healthy for a family to continue living with hatred or bearing grudges.

So my husband and I put together five different hampers each containing a 10kg bag of rice, a twin pack of chicken, a 12-pack canned ocean blue tuna, a bunch of bananas, and greens and drinks.

It was a thoroughly guided reconciliation.

Each family was given 20 minutes to air their frustrations or disappointments, and then close off by apologising for any poor behaviour of their own.

As the rain poured down, we clustered under the cover of a high-post house as each of our families gathered and everyone took their opportunity to speak.

While each person spoke, the rest listened quietly and waited for their turn.

Everyone spoke and asked for forgiveness and made a promise that night to put away all our differences and move forward into the new year with positive vibes.

At the end of it, each family was presented a hamper as a symbol of reconciliation and unity. It felt so good seeing everyone laugh, shake hands and hug.

Peacemaking or kastom wok has always been part of our society and is a practice that has been passed on from generation to generation.

It is a symbol of unity and is the pillar that keeps families and clans together and is the very reason our societies continue to thrive and live in harmony.

In past times, it was common for misunderstandings, arguments and fights in our society but kastom wok was always employed to make peace.

I grew up embracing it as part of my Oro culture.

It involved slaughtering pigs and chickens, harvesting the best produce from the gardens, offerings of betel nut and coconuts and, in some extreme cases, exchange marriages.

I recall my mother cooking a pot of food or taking a live chicken to say sorry to an aunt or an in-law after having a heated argument with them.

“Say sorry before the sun sets,” she would say, “and never go to bed with an unforgiving heart.”

Over the years, I also adopted the custom of showing gestures to say sorry.

Not everything practiced in my culture can be adapted into contemporary PNG society, like facial and body tattoos, but kastom wok in showing kindness, asking for forgiveness or celebrating is one I hold dear to me and continue to practice.

It takes stupidity and pride to create a problem, but it takes much courage to stand up, admit your faults and apologise.


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Garrett Roche

“Say sorry before the sun sets,” she would say, “and never go to bed with an unforgiving heart.”

As one man from Tarsus said some centuries ago, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Paul, Letter to Ephesians ch.4. v. 26).

The similarity between the wisdom of the Oro culture and the above quote from scripture is clear. This does not mean however that the scriptural quote is the original source of the Oro wisdom.

I would argue that in many cultures of PNG one will find wise sayings and traditional tales, whose origin pre-dated the arrival of missionaries, but these sayings and tales nevertheless have some parallels or similarities in Christian tradition.

We all share a common humanity and some experiences and some expressions of wisdom may be found in cultures that historically were widely separated from each other and did not share a common religion.

I like the Caroline's concluding sentence, "It takes stupidity and pride to create a problem, but it takes much courage to stand up, admit your faults and apologise."

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