Julie Bishop delivers hard truths to PNG
With foresight, PNG can be a force of nature

The unfortunate lesson of St Patrick the slave


TUMBY BAY - In the late 4th or early 5th century AD, in the dying days of the Roman Empire, some Irish raiders captured a young bloke called Patrick from his home in Britain and took him to Ireland as a slave.

It turned out to be a big mistake.

After six years as a slave, Patrick escaped and returned to Britain where he trained to be a Christian cleric.

He then returned to Ireland and began proselytising Christianity. In other words he became a missionary.

By the 7th century Patrick had become the patron saint of Ireland.

By introducing Christianity, he almost single-handedly destroyed Ireland’s proud Celtic warrior culture, something the might of the Roman Empire had failed to do.

Patrick also turned the people of Ireland into a guilt-ridden, shameful and helpless population suffering under the unforgiving and brutal heel of the Catholic Church.

It is only now, some 1,500 years later, that the Irish people are throwing off the yoke of Christianity and rediscovering their Celtic roots.

It is interesting to speculate what Ireland might have become if those Irish raiders had simply ransacked the home of Patrick’s wealthy parents and left him alone - or maybe given him to the Druids as a human sacrifice.

But let’s examine a comparable situation in our neck of the woods.

What would Papua New Guinea be like now if the British, German and Australian administrations had been properly funded and had not needed to rely on squabbling missions to carry the country’s educational and health burdens?

What if those administrations had more tightly controlled the missions and their manic desire to destroy the ancient cultures that existed in their captive ‘spheres of influence’ where they introduced a not-fit-for-purpose Christianity?

I think, as the Irish would now attest, life in PNG would be better.

The Irish sacrificed the colourful dynamics of their fierce and passionate culture for boring Christianity and so did the people of PNG.

The politics of cultural genocide in both Ireland and PNG ultimately left a miserable legacy of dislocated lives devoid of meaning or purpose.

Walk the streets of Port Moresby or Lae or Mount Hagen, if you dare, and you’ll see the misery in the hopeless eyes of the homeless and poverty stricken and remember that the missions worked hand in hand with capitalism in this deadly work.

And realise how staggering is their hubris.

The Irish can now see Patrick for what he really represented and they don’t like it. 

On 17 March every year they now celebrate their own unique Celtic culture instead of this foolish man.

Perhaps it’s time that Papua New Guineans examined their relationship with the churches and the rich cultural heritage that they largely trashed.


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