Fr Giorgio Licini - "“Arrogance and a refusal to listen will isolate the big south island, leaving the smaller ones in the vast ocean with no choice but to turn to Asia"
NOOSA – A prominent Catholic priest in Papua New Guinea says Australia, as the region’s richest and biggest nation, should “lead through kindness” in the south-west Pacific and show “solidarity and inclusiveness”.
Writing in the PNG Catholic Reporter, Fr Giorgio Licini said the PNG government and civil society also have a responsibility because of their “central position among the family of nations in the Pacific [to] raise their voice regarding the current most pressing issues”.
Fr Giorgio enumerated these as Australia’s attitudes to offshore detention, refusing to acknowledge the negative environmental impact of coal burning and making “access and work difficult for other members of the Pacific family”.
Recent literacy graduates from the Guna-Goreku people of Simbu, who seem to have found a sustainable peace
KUNDIAWA - The air is filled with smoke rising languidly above mounds of black ash. Women and children hide in the forest, terrified of those who have stripped their fields and herded away their pigs.
In the distance, a decrepit school stands idly, empty of laughter or the sounds of teachers scolding students. A small church, recently filled with sounds of song and praise, is the only building that is untouched.
Over a ridge, a widow watches a sweet potato roasting on a bed of glowing ash. She is worried. Her hands tremble. Recently a man in her clan died after a long illness. Some of the relatives are saying she is responsible.
They huddle together and whisper. A witch, one says. A sorcerer, says another. A Dracula. For that is the new word they use for the likes of her. She has done nothing but fears what will happen when the relatives of the deceased man return to her house.
PORT MORESBY - Galkope men’s houses (hausman), in what is now the Simbu Province, schooled young boys of the Dom, Yuri, Bari and Erula Nauro tribes, which had colonised their territories by migrating from different lands.
The Dom evolved out of Dlekopl while the Yuri walked east through the Wahgi valley. Erula 1-4 evolved out of Monguma, while the Bari arrived at Dukul Mormapir from the Gena-Nogar.
These four tribes, now referred to as Galkope, converged and settled on either sides of the Kola-Kawa River alongside an existing tribe, the Teklau-Baimane.
The Teklau-Baimane settled at Olkaipel, Mekul, Kaluvalu and the vicinity - but fled west after killing Yuri Alaibia before the coming of the Makruai, and settled at Kerual Apane in Jiwaka Province. To this day the older people still speak the Nauro-Bari language.
Against this backdrop, the Roman Catholic Church arrived unexpectedly and settled at Mingende just after the Makruai. The church extended its influence to new lands and built a new mission station at Yopar. The Gakwane and the Erula Nauro people were excited about the opportunities the church brought to their midst.
Fr Giorgio Licini - “You cannot keep people in those conditions indefinitely; you destroy them. And who allows you to destroy people?”
PETER BUGDEN | The Catholic Leader
BRISBANE - A senior priest in Papua New Guinea has turned to Australia seeking compassion for refugees and asylum seekers languishing in our nation’s off-shore detention system.
Fr Giorgio Licini, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands, has been in Australia in recent weeks pressing the case for an end to what he calls “a humanitarian crisis”.
Fr Licini has called for the Australian government to resolve the situation on humanitarian grounds.
Speaking as a missionary from PNG – a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions – and as a church man, Fr Licini said “we don’t necessarily question the policies of government in terms of border protection … but in this specific case I would say, see now the humanitarian crisis”.
Imam of Mt Hagen, Ahmad Didat - “When I built this mosque, I was alone. Then the community came"
SCOTT WAIDE | EMTV
LAE – At midday, as a small group of men and boys prepare for Friday Prayers in Kagamuga, Western Highlands, a local Imam makes the Muslim call to prayer.
The Arabic language sounds very foreign here. This is one of the few Islamic communities in the Western Highlands finding its way in a country that describes itself as predominantly Christian.
Inside the small mosque, the men and boys line up in front as the prayers begin. The women, as per Islamic teaching, are in another room.
“When I built this mosque, I was alone. I had not received any formal training yet when I converted to Islam,” says the local Imam, Ahmad Didat. “Then the boys nearby came and joined me. Then the community came.”
Israel Folau "has not sought to persecute; all he has done is issue a heartfelt, albeit misdirected, warning"
TUMBY BAY - The appalling decision by the politically correct pedants at Rugby Australia to terminate Israel Folau’s contract for the apparently heinous offence of posting a comment on his religious beliefs has set a very dangerous precedent.
I’m not particularly inclined to get excited about grown men chasing a leather ball around a paddock nor am I inclined to believe in supreme beings but I am inclined to believe that people like Israel Folau have a perfect right to say what they believe without fear of persecution.
What he said is what he believes. He was born in New South Wales of Tongan parents. As a Pacific Islander his profound religious beliefs come as no surprise.
That he felt the need to warn people who are different to him of the imputed biblical consequences of those differences, irrelevant as that may be, is also not particularly unusual.
The Lean family at their new home in Kudjip in the Western Highlands
PETER GUNDERS | ABC Southern Queensland | Extract
TOOWOOMBA, QLD - Dave and Mary Lean have made a very different kind of tree change — taking their five young children with them from Toowoomba in southern Queensland to the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
"A lot of people say, 'Are you taking your children with you?', but I think in their minds they're actually asking, 'Are you crazy?'" Dr Lean said.
"Our youngest is 15 months old, and we're going for at least two years. So yes, we're taking our children!" Dr Lean said.
Home will be on the compound of a 160-bed hospital in Kudjip, an hour's drive east of Mt Hagen.
Dave Lean will be one of two paediatricians at the hospital that covers a population of 400,000.
"I've loved working at Toowoomba hospital for the past two years, and in one sense the work doesn't change, but the way children present in PNG is often far sicker than what we see in Australia," Dr Lean said.
NOOSA – The Catholic bishops of Papua New Guinea have had enough of the O’Neill government, blasting it for failing to take action on corruption and for what they have referred to as its “general incompetence”.
In a public statement, the bishops asked why an Independent Commission Against Corruption had not yet been established, despite many promises over many years, and why nothing has been done to end the Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) which are said to have led to many illegal land grabs.
They condemned SABLs for continuing to destroy the environment and the livelihoods of thousands of Papua New Guineans.
The statement also attacked the practice of politicians directly distributing government funds to the people themselves.
LAE - It was bound to come to light sooner than later. Over the last 20 years, the Catholic Church has been under intense pressure to admit to cases of sexual abuse within its ranks.
Admitting is one thing. But investigating and bringing criminal proceedings against the offending priests and other members of the clergy is another matter altogether.
It is something the Catholic Church has shied away from for many decades.
Last week people around the world read in horror as the Vatican treasurer, the third highest ranking Catholic clergyman from the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, was found guilty of sexually assaulting two boys when he was an archbishop.
Fr Giorgio Licini - 'I appeal to your sense of humanity and the responsibility of your high office'
FR GIORGIO LICINI | General Secretary, Catholic Bishops Conference
WAIGANI - Dear Hon Prime Minister: It is with heavy heart and an intense sense of sadness that I report to you on my recent visits to Lorengau town in Manus Island and to the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby.
At the two locations, I had the heartbreaking experience of making contact with an appalling level of desperation in which refugees and asylum seekers live.
I am not referring to the logistic conditions in which the men are kept, which appear to be decent with security, cleanliness, and respect by national and expatriate personnel.
My concern is rather about their fast deteriorating health status, which is making now acts of self-harm and attempted suicide a daily occurrence: three cases only for the two days I was in Manus on 20-22 January.
While travel to Manus and to the detention centers may prove hard to your busy schedule, I warmly invite you to make a quick visit to the [Intensive Care Unit] ward of Pacific International Hospital at 3 Mile.
You will come across well-kept health facilities and extremely kind and professional personnel, but you will also meet about twenty refugees and asylum seekers in a deplorable state of mental health compounded with other ailments affecting their cardiac and respiratory system, kidney failure, fractured bones, etc.
PORT MORESBY - The bishops of Papua New Guinea have issued a renewed plea on behalf of the nearly 500 refugees and asylum seekers being held in indefinite detention in deteriorating conditions.
“These people have been away from their families for the sixth Christmas… it was just another night of detention on Manus Island,” said Fr Ambrose Pereira, communication secretary for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Facing conditions of trauma, overcrowding, and lack of food, he said, “most of them survive thanks to medicines, mostly anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotics,” and many face serious side effects from taking the medications long-term without a prescription.
Manokwari, the capital city of West Papua (David Worabay)
STAFF CORRESPONDENT | Anglican News
AUCKLAND - Bishops from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia - including Aotearoa New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, America Samoa and the Cook Islands - have expressed “deep disappointment” at what they say is the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua.
The political status of West Papua is disputed. In the 1940s, with the collapse of the Netherlands East Indies, Indonesia claimed sovereignty over all of the former colony but the Dutch retained control over West Papua.
In the 1960s, Indonesia invaded the island and a later UN-brokered peace deal resulted in 1,000 ‘elders’ voting to become part of Indonesia in a disputed election.
Last year, an ecumenical pastoral solidarity group from the Christian Council of Asia visited West Papua and described “grave human rights violations” in the region.
Photo: Pioneering Sonoma Adventist College students Jim Manele and John Hamura with the college’s first principal, Alexander Currie (Adventist Record)
RABAUL - Sonoma Adventist College recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and school reunion.
Former students from PNG and the Solomon Islands came together in September to commemorate the occasion. Pioneering principal Alexander Currie, his wife, Beverley, and two sons, Gavin and Philip, were special guests.
For Sonoma, which grew from humble beginnings into a school affiliated with Pacific Adventist University, celebrating 50 years of service to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in PNG and the South Pacific region is a significant achievement for the institution and the Papua New Guinea Union Mission.
MEDIA STATEMENT | Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG & Solomon Islands
PORT MORESBY - The primary task of the Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea is to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people. As such the church adopts no particular position on political or economic issues except to bring gospel values to this part of life.
However, since the Catholic Church is known and expected to speak for those without a voice, and has a reputation for its concern for the rural poor of PNG, many have asked us for our position on APEC.
We have addressed this issue many times in the past and more recently appealed for a return to the division of powers that could ensure that political power and the equitable distribution of wealth are kept separate.
We share the concern of many about the huge amount of our limited resources being expended on this event which seems designed to entertain and impress the rich and powerful.
Given its inevitability, we can only hope for its ‘success’, which can only mean that the welfare of the poorest people of PNG will somehow indirectly be improved. Although we all would like to make a good impression on our visitors, this cannot be at the expense of the truth.
Water lily pond at the Pacific Adventist University just outside Port Moresby
PORT MORESBY - The Melanesia Association of Theological Schools conference, held last week at the Pacific Adventist University, is an annual event where theologians, scholars and pastors from theological schools and churches gather to discuss theological issues affecting Christians in Melanesia.
The university hosted this year’s interdenominational conference and its school of theology, humanities and education worked together for the whole year to prepare for the event under the leadership of Dr Elisapesi Mason.
The three-day conference was officially opened by Dr Lalen Simeon, deputy vice chancellor of Pacific Adventist University in the presence of vice chancellor Dr Raul Lozano, registrar Mrs Pele Alu and staff members.
SHEENA LI as told to Kate Whitehead | South China Morning Post | Edited extracts
High-flier Sheena Li, who grew up in Hong Kong before her family moved to Canada, shuns wealth and prestige to make a difference among the world’s most needy communities
TORONTO - My parents met at Hong Kong University. My father worked in the Education Bureau and my mum was a social worker. I was born in 1979.
My parents decided to emigrate to Toronto when I was 11 – they thought there would be better opportunities for my brother and I, and there was also uncertainty over the future in Hong Kong.
If we’d stayed in Hong Kong, I don’t think my brother and I would have got the grades to go to university, but in Canada we thrived. I was determined to learn English so I could make friends. I read a lot of books and I read the Bible, which is how I became a Christian.
SYDNEY - Pressure is mounting on Papua New Guinea's Government to reconsider its contracts with health clinics run by the Catholic Church, amid concerns some are deliberately failing to meet their obligations of providing a full family planning service.
While advocating natural methods of contraception, the Church insists it also provides counselling and a patient referral system, which is a requirement of its contract with the PNG Health Department.
But family planning advocates claim items being provided to Catholic clinics by the Government go unused and are being destroyed, while others report spot checks are being carried out by senior church officials.
PORT MORESBY - The Western world’s Satan and Papua New Guinean sanguma (sorcery) seem to be similar concepts but Western religious scholars dictate that the Trinity and the college of angels (including Satan) exists in the ether but sanguma does not.
This view defies logic because both Satan and sanguma are associated with evil and are on the same side of the coin.
No Christian (verifiably anyway) has seen the Trinity, angels, the intercession of the Saints or Satan yet they believe in their existence and control over the peaks and troughs of life.
However, sanguma, exactly the same concept as Satan, is stamped ‘null and void’.
KUNDIAWA - Many Christians around the world have adopted a material and secular meaning of Christmas: giving and receiving gifts to strengthen social and economic bonds; reuniting with families and friends; celebrating; and taking holidays from work.
Special gifts are given to special friends at this time of year, representing personal commitment, appreciation, beauty, joy, pride and positive experience.
In Papua New Guinea, and especially in the Highlands where I live, the true meaning of Christmas is not fully observed. Rather, it is seen as the time to receive and remit bride prices, celebrate weddings, pay compensation, hold funeral feasts, drink and enjoy in a more casual way.
People can be beautiful but does religion really make us better?
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.
Kiap Tom Ellis with Bishop George Bernarding and Fr Arnold Steffen
DUBLIN – Contributor Ross Howard, writing recently in PNG Attitude, has eloquently provided us with an historical background to the debate about science and the church.
Perhaps it’s worthwhile, in commenting on the role of the churches in the development of Papua New Guinea, to look very briefly at the contribution of the churches in the fields of education and health.
Bishop George Bernarding, former Bishop of Mt Hagen, once told me that in the period after World War II the Catholic mission wanted to start an English-speaking school at Kondiu in Simbu but the Australian administration was not in favour saying Pidgin schools would be quite adequate.
The Diocese of Mt Hagen eventually established two high schools, Fatima and Notre Dame, and numerous community schools in what was then Western Highlands District. To the best of my knowledge the District Commissioner, Tom Ellis, was most supportive.
NEWCASTLE - A Papua New Guinea Catholic bishop says he will reinstate an Australian Vincentian priest to a PNG high school despite a police investigation of allegations involving school students, and a church investigation confirming the priest touched students’ legs and sometimes slapped them.
Bishop Rolando Santos said Australian Vincentian priest Neil Lams was “firm, upright and committed” and he was not changing the priest’s assignment as chaplain to the PNG school.
The bishop reserved the right to take defamation action against people, including school teachers, who complained about the priest’s behaviour.
A church investigation report, which Bishop Santos supplied to the Newcastle Herald, found no evidence to support allegations Father Lams sexually abused two female students at a Catholic high school in eastern PNG.
But investigators for the PNG Catholic Church Office of Right Relationships in Ministry found evidence of confessional “incidents”, where Father Lams touched students on the legs and asked questions about sex that left students “embarrassed or scared or hurt or surprised”.
BRISBANE - I received an email last Friday from Franciscan missionary Sister Cecilia Prest Mfic who has spent 15 years at Woorabinda, an indigenous community town 180 km south-west of Rockhampton in Queensland.
Previously Sr Cecilia was in the Aitape Diocese of Papua New Guinea for 28 years - most of the time in charge of the health centre at small mission station of Fatima near Lumi.
She told me that Fr Bruno Pokule was visiting Woorabinda for a few days, adding that she had delivered him when she was based at Sissano. Sr Cecilia remembers she was up all night as it had proved to be “a very difficult delivery”.
PAPUA New Guinea's national court has ordered the country’s Immigration and Citizenship Service Authority to facilitate the return to the country of New Zealander Douglas Tennent.
The religious lay worker was deported last month for allegedly breaching the terms of his religious worker visa.
As a qualified lawyer working for the Archbishop of Rabaul, Mr Tennent had been advising landowners at West Pomio who were involved in a contractual wrangle with logging and palm oil multinational company Rimbunan Hijau.
RABAUL Archbishop Francesco Panfilo has said the deportation of New Zealand missionary Douglas Tennent remains an issue whichever government is in power in Papua New Guinea.
“I want to inform all [sitting] candidates and aspiring candidates for national elections that neither the Archdiocese of Rabaul nor the Catholic Bishops’ Conference will take this matter lightly, as it seems to imply that to work for justice is outside of a ‘religious worker’ status.”
Archbishop Panfilo’s call comes after Mr Tennent, who had been working as an administrator for the Archdiocese of Rabaul since June 2014, was deported on 12 June 2017, over an alleged breach of visa conditions.
Authorities claim Mr Tennent was deported due to “blatant abuse” of his ‘special exemption/religious worker visa’ after engaging in “sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.
THE Catholic Church in Papua New Guinea is planning legal action against the acting chief migration officer Solomon Kantha over what it says was the illegal deportation of religious layworker, Doug Tennent.
Mr Tennent was working for the Archbishop of Rabaul, Francesco Panfilo (pictured), helping landowners battling a multi-national logger and palm oil company, Rimbunan Hijau.
Mr Tennent, a New Zealander, was bundled onto a plane and deported despite a stay order being presented to immigration personnel by senior church officials, including the Vatican ambassador.
THE hasty deportation of three missionaries in separate suspicious circumstances should not go without a challenge. Where is the Christian community?
Touching a missionary touches the core of Christianity in Papua New Guinea. It is expected that churches would rise up and condemn such actions regardless of which church the expelled missionary came from.
The deportation of one missionary should be considered an attack on Christianity in PNG.
It’s a week since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs deported the three missionaries but the silence of the Church is deafening. Where is the so called PNG Council of Churches or the de facto Body of Christ?
A NEW Zealand missionary deported from Papua New Guinea says he wants PNG Immigration to spell out to him how he breached his visa.
Despite a court order staying his deportation, Douglas Tennent (pictured) was forced to leave PNG on Monday after being told on Friday by immigration officials he was abusing the conditions of his religious worker visa.
Mr Tennent had been working at the Rabaul archdiocese where among his roles was helping local people affected by multi-national Rimbunan Hijau's palm oil operations.
Now back in New Zealand, Mr Tennent said he wants just two things.
"One of them is to return to PNG to continue my work with the archdiocese in helping local people on infrastructure and land issues," he said.
AN expatriate lay missionary had his entry permit revoked and was deported from Papua New Guinea today because of what the government alleges is a “blatant abuse” of his visa “by engaging in sensitive landowner issues in East New Britain Province”.
And the Catholic Archbishop of Rabaul, Francesco Panfilo SDB (pictured), has asked if this means “the level of corruption reached by the government is beyond remedy?”
Archbishop Panfilo said Douglas Tennent, a lay missionary from New Zealand and a former lecturer of law at UPNG, came to East New Britain as a lay missionary with an entry permit as a ‘special exemption/religious worker’.
IT IS with great sadness that the Franciscan Friars of the Province of the Holy Spirit announce the death of Emeritus Archbishop Sir Brian Barnes OFM (1933-2017).
Brian James Patrick Barnes was born at Wingham in New South Wales on 23 March 1933 to Arthur Keith Barnes and Eileen Barnes. He joined the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans) in 1951 and was first professed on 18 February 1952. He was ordained a priest on 12 July 1958.
As Father Brian Barnes, he was appointed to the mission of Papua New Guinea in October 1959. He served as Assistant Priest in Aitape when he first arrived in the PNG Missions. He then served as Headmaster at Seleo Island and as a parish priest in Monandin, Nuku, Wati, Ningil and Lumi from 1960 until 1968.
In 1968 he was appointed as chaplain to the police of the Royal PNG Constabulary. He was based in Port Moresby but travelled extensively throughout Papua New Guinea. He served as the police chaplain from 1968 until 1988 when he took up his appointment as a bishop of the diocese of Aitape.
LAST week I started sending Easter greetings to a few friends.
One was Jim Fenton, an Australian. He was the patrol officer who in 1960established Kandep patrol post in what is now Enga Province.
The other was American missionary, Fr Jerry Gerald Theis SVD (pictured), who established the first mission station at at Pindak village, later moving to the present location at Mariant in Kandep.
I attended the government primary school but absconded when Fr Theis started Mariant Catholic Mission primary school near my village of Kondo. I didn’t like walking to Kandep every morning in the cold with barely any clothing covering my body. Fr Theis was my teacher at Mariant.
LIFE is getting acutely more dreadful each passing day in Papua New Guinea and this has finally pushed some morally upright people’s civic virtue to the cliff-edge.
It seems that pious papists are now willing to be two-faced, just like most of the fat cats, arrow men (police) and their Asian masters.
In fact, some devout people have begun to craft bizarre techniques to make ends meet. One such group is a gang of Catholic mothers in Morata, along with their padre.
Instead of doing something useful in their houses such as sewing clothes and baking scones, or fishing and gardening in the Morata Swamps, we hear they have been instructed by the parish priest to visit families in their homes and pray for them in return for money.
I WAS about eight years old when I realised that organised religion was a giant confidence trick.
The thing that made me aware of this was my mother’s plan to send me to the local Catholic school. We’d just moved out of the migrant hostel after arriving in Australia from England and I was bound to a new school.
Although my father was an atheist he was a nominal Catholic, and had succumbed to family pressure to marry in the church.
My mother, abiding by church rules, had converted from Methodism to Catholicism. That marriage and conversion carried a mandatory commitment to raise children as Catholics. Such was the power of the church in those days.