Take Back PNG

As we immerse ourselves in local politics, let us not forget that we a part of a bigger world political system. We may want to believe we hold the reins to our political system, but we are in a school of small fish caught between the “clash of the titans” – the EU, USA, China, Japan. Is that reason enough for us to sit back and resign to our fate and go where the tsunami of world politics take us??

Absolutely not. Our smallness in the big pool also means we can go under the radar. Our lack of dependence in the big global machinery means,we are immune to some of the effects of global politics.

We may be small in the eyes of the world, but 8 million is big enough to sustain a local market. We should concentrate on our local markets.

As PM JM said in his address to the nation – let us build on our strengths. Let the islands specialize in island things, let the highlands specialize in highlands commodities and let the coastals do what they are good at.

If Kina fails us one of these days, we can always revert to the 50,000 year system that had always worked for us – the barter system. Specialization allowed barter to take place and that kept our traditional economies buoyant. Family, kinship, tribal alliances – those are our strength. We survived 50,000 years, we can go another 50,000 if only we believe in our selves and our systems to take care of us.

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We need to grow our population

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Bona or  food sharing by the Zia Tribe, Morobe. Papua New Guinea.

Survival is a numbers game. More people means more heads, more ideas, and a diverse and resilient gene pool. More numbers mean more work force, bigger markets, bigger army, bigger fire power. Louder protests. We increase our human potential when we increase our numbers.

Population growth is good for us. If you disagree then you have been brainwashed. Wake up. Think for yourself. Or else when you die, you will do so  without realizing your potential.

All the life-force you will ever need to live a meaningful life – you are born with all that intact.  You inherit your unique potential from two very resilient people – your mother and your father.  Combining this genetic mishmash with the unconscious piling of knowledge from the past that we call instinct. On top of that, the memory bank  inherited from past lives that is passed down through blood. All these are your latent potential.

But wait!  And because you are alive, everyday you can choose to add new tools to your expanding repertoire of arsenal by availing yourself to new experiences.

It has been proven: Your potential can take you from your backwoods, splitting firewood   to splitting genes in a cryonics laboratory. All you need is a razor sharp will.  Your will is your mental power to control and direct your thoughts and actions despite circumstances. If you will it, it will. If you will it not, it will not.

How is all this related to growing a population?

In statistics – the bigger the sample size, the more refined the result. Your potential can only be buoyed and lifted to the next level by sheer force of number. How? Because many people share your value system and history. The same reason why Miss PNG keeps winning the Miss Internet in the Pacific beauty pageant.

Many people means a bigger thinking and reasoning population.  In the face of competition, the life-forces  keep reinventing self to become  more and more  potent. 

In a bigger gene pool, the genetic variation is large. In a bigger genetic pool, we have increased buffer against erosion. In a bigger genetic pool, there is a bigger potential for everything . Why reduce our gene pool? For whose benefit?

The most quoted reason why we should not grow our population is that we do not have enough resources.

What resources? Land is not the problem, we have enough for 8.5 million people… compared to Bali and Sumatra and Lombok – all squashed on a pinhead.
Food? Everybody eats from a garden…. it is in our genes to work the land. Only lazy people do not work the land. Money? There will never be enough money ever, but we can learn to live within our means.

The problem is when we become dependent , our will power is dampened and our power for self-governance is eroded.  The ‘true  north’ of our Melanesian compass is despised as primitive and discarded  for the Eurocentric one. So we become like children, wanting to be like ‘them’, but not knowing how to do, must be led by the hand.

The irony: living a fulfilled life by trusting your instinct based on a value system and time-tested principals is not a new phenomena. In the days of old, our forefathers had principals in war as in peacetime. So which one is authentic for you – you decide.

The human potential aka the life-force shimmering under the surface ready is ready to be ignited into action. We need to take our potential back. A bigger population can withstand the erosion of our cultural pride.

What should we do?

First, we need a more smarter and radical leadership.  A leadership that is selfish about PNG. A leadership that is dependent yet independent. A leadership that has pride for country. A leadership that can see the potential that is locked in us. A leadership that understands that, all of us – all people of the world – red, yellow, white or black – we are sojourners:  here today and gone tomorrow.  We need a radical leadership that understands that all cultures and value systems are equal wherever God placed us.  We are built for our environment – like fish, we need water and we do not have to judge ourselves harshly for not becoming a tree climbing fish.

We need a leadership that uses their head and heart to make good long-term decisions for the country and not for their pockets for short-term gain.  Afterall, where in the world will you you say at the end of the day: I have come home; I am home – but here – where your umbilical cord is buried.

In a bigger population, competition will cull mediocrity and the cream of leadership will rise to the top.

Then we need education. Education that gives us pride  in the basics, the laws and principals that opens our eyes to our innate life-force. When we have acknowledged our innate power, then we will start living to our full potential. We will believe in ourselves and not be swayed by latest trends that go against our values.

A good education system provides a negative feedback loop to population growth. A good education  gives people options to do many things including the information to control their fertility.  In 2019, the guesstimate is that we have close to 10 million people – a badly educated 10 million people will become 20 million in the next 20 years. A radical education initiative can half  that predicted number.

In a smaller population, this idea will be scoffed and left to die. In a bigger population, with a bigger thinking capacity, this idea will be buoyed by debates and  criticism until it makes sense, to be embraced and acted upon. And when this idea become common knowledge, generations will just acquire it at birth. People will live it. There will be no need to justify it.

We need to take our country back. It is up to us to decide to grow our population or not and shouldn’t be determined by outsiders.

 

Trust yourself

When you are given an hammer, all you will see is nails, similarly, the more we talk negative, the more challenges we will see. We need a change of mindset, look for opportunities in the challenges and we will see more opportunities…and importantly, celebrate achievements, no matter how small, as great achievements in history are collection of all the little victories.

We are as good as anyone in the world – have faith in your ability to lead. If we don’t trust ourselves who else will? We have to stop playing victim and start taking control of our life. 

Everyone in the world is out to satisfy a need or a greed, even charity these days comes with a price tag. Therefore there is no guarantee for change if you put your hope on others – only we can help ourselves.

That is why one man with a clear vision to lead us is enough, but it will be an accelerated change if more man capture the vision. And the sign of a great leader is his/her ability to create visionaries.

 

power out7

Book Review:  ‘My Walk to Equality

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Walk to Equality

The theme for  the 2017 International Women’s Day was “Be Bold for Change”. The launching of the anthology on that day was a bold step toward putting the spotlight on woman issues  in Papua New Guinea.

The anthology is a 280 paged book containing 84 entries from 40 women writers – both established and emerging writers. The stories, poems, and essays contain accounts by women who are striving to create a better and stronger PNG for women with their words immortalized in this anthology.

The women, with brutal honesty tell their story, they give their solutions and ask the pertinent questions to probe further thinking that will require honesty and humility in addressing.

Rashmii Amoah Bell, the editor of the anthology says in her essay, ‘Embracing the dark future to see PNG emerge into the light’,  that change can happen through literature. She advocates the use of writing as a tool, to explore new grounds – including taboo subjects – as a means for starting conversations and looking for solutions.

This is one way PNG women can create a better and stronger PNG, by just telling our stories. Our stories may be accepted or they may be rejected but the stories will exist as a beacon in our walk to equality. Through our stories we walk into the dark future to emerge into light.

A. Be bold because courage is contagious

Being bold in the face of challenges is one way women can create a better and stronger PNG because courage is contagious.

Caroline Evari relocates with her family from Port Moresby to Oro and after a while, she moves back to Port Moresby by herself.

She goes through a lot of struggles but despite that she comes out a victor.  She says, “your mind is your greatest enemy, not the people around you.  Reach for the stars and keep running until you have achieved your goal.”

On the walk to equality, we have to be bold and courageous, because there are eyes watching.

As women, we ask for permission to do a lot of things, but the first thing we need to do is to give ourselves the permission to be great.

In Madlyn Baida’s story, a village lass, she wanted to learn to read and write and get an education. She allowed herself to dream. Once she knew her dream, she saw opportunities when they came up. Her husband was her support and enabled to achieve her freedom.

Be good at what you do because that is the currency that will take women’s voice onto the table for negotiations

To create a better and stronger PNG, we need to get more women into decision making positions so that they may show favorable consideration to the women’s walk to equality.

There is an adage that says, ‘if you are good at what you do, you will serve before Kings’. Do something with your life.

Be good at something. It does not matter what you do or whether you are as young as Iriani Wanma, the author of the grasshopper story or middle aged or somewhere in between. If you are good you will be favored. And when you are recognized, make use of your position to address the plight of the sisterhood.

We already have many role models who have done just that. Women can always match the stride of the society.  Some of these prominent PNG women include Winifred Kamit, Finckewe Zurenuo, Jane Mogina, Betty Lovai and the late Judge Davani, whose tribute can be seen in the anthology.

I am as proud of the sisterhood at the Division of Education in Simbu as told by Roslyn Tony. Despite a lot of push-back from a paternalistic society, these women acted with integrity and transparency and were eventually accepted as leaders in their communities.

B.      We have to be responsible for the sisterhood

Even if women make up 50% of the population, we are still treated as a minority due to our positions in the community. We have a duty of care to stand up for our sisters.

“If only I could save you, you’d still have a heartbeat.”  This eerie phrase from Vanessa Gordon’s Drum beat is haunting. It is full of regret. We have to take action to help a sister and the children and the helpless.

To help our sisters we have to know our rights.  Dominica Are tells the story of how Pauline saved her life by walking away from a bad situation all because she know her rights. Not many women have that knowledge.

It is our duty to teach as well as mentor other woman to be the best.  Alurigo does that with the XOX: We are Champions group. It does not have to be on the national stage but at our own little spheres of influence.

We have to support any form of education. The most inspiring story I read was by Alphonse Huvi from West New Britain.  Her father was against her education and did not make resources available, but, through support from her auntie Oripa, she became a teacher and was eventually accepted by her father. We have a duty to support our girls to get an education.

C.        Too big a work for women alone – Patriarchy can help

Patriarchy can play a big role to helping women build a better and stronger PNG.

In the anthology, there are six stories that pay tribute to patriarchy for being the source of strength for these six women. This shows the important role of the male gender in helping women in our walk to equality.

Helen Anderson in her essay Mixed race meri Markham pays tribute to her male relatives for helping her fit into her society. While Emma Wapki pays tribute to her male relatives for being fair, loving and supportive

The fine story by Alurigo on Sir Dawanicura is an example of leaders leading by example. He has brought a family friendly atmosphere to the PNG Olympics Committee. Family is the basic building block of society if we do not lead with wisdom and flexibility in this changing times, we can contribute to the breakdown in family, which will lead to breakdown in society, and eventually breakdown in the nation.

D.      The society will not change until the family changes

Families are the cornerstone of societies.  We learn how to be function as members of society by learning from within our family circles. We build from strength to strength when we have a stable roots.  A stable family can be the base for creating a better and stronger PNG.

Florence Jonduo   talks about parenting children says that the children are innocent, they are brought up without their permission and that is why, adults we have moral and legal obligation to look after them.  And whatever we teach them when they are young, sets them up for life.

But sometimes children turn out wrong. Whose fault is that when we observe generations of young people who have no plans for life,  “the lost men” as Marlene Dee Gray Potoura  describes the situation. Marlene asks a pertinent questions,  “Are the lost men the fault of women?”

Rosyln Tony also asks some very hard questions about why things are falling apart in our society. If we honestly answer the questions, we may find that it will lead us to families and that is where we may come up with long-lasting and meaning full solutions for the problems we see in our society.

Conclusion

No woman or group of women can fully address those pertinent questions single-handed. We need the help of society through policies and laws.

As we look at shaping policies for the future, I hope we all take those important decisions from the perspective of young mothers.

Lapieh Landu in her poem Fear Unbearable writes about her fears for her baby as she contemplates the future.  If all people responsible for creating laws can make those laws from the position of new mothers, looking at her helpless infant, then we may take all the necessary steps to secure a better future for the generation yet to come.  For we are fighting a cause that is not for us but for the future generation.

Commemorating 500 years of reformation in Papua New Guinea

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Flags at the 3oth Synod at Heldsbach Finschhafen, Morobe Province.: Lutheran Church flag, the PNG flag and the Morobe Provincial flag. Photo Tanya Zeriga-ALone

This year 2017, marks the 500th year since Martin Luther, a German monk and doctor of theology was excommunicated from the Roman Church at that time for suggesting changes  based on the Bible. Through study, Martin Luther was convicted by these four gospel truths: Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone: salvation is a free gift from God  given to those who seek after it  in faith and cannot be bought or achieved through good works.

Martin Luther’s purpose was clear – to correct the erroneous teachings on sin  and salvation and to  take believers back to a faith as was intended by  the forerunners of the Christian faith.

Martin Luther’s followers are called the Lutherans. Protestantism was born from this action in history. Protestants believe that only Jesus is the head of the church.

The Lutheran Church was in existence for over 3 centuries by the time it arrived on the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the late 1800.  PNG was a dark and unknown place at the turn of the century – tribal fights, sorcery, payback killing were common. Isolated in their own little worlds, Papua New Guineans were animists, believing that spirits controlled their life.

The gospel arrived with Reverend Johannes Flierl, a Neuendettelsau Missionary from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.  The gospel in PNG began in the Finschhafen and Madang area and spread into the rest of Papua New Guinea. As it was in the days of Luther, the gospel liberated people from the fear of the unknown and freed multitudes from the power of spirits and death.

The pioneer missionaries both local and expatriates paid a price for the freedom we enjoy today. In those early days, missionaries risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. They crossed tribal boundaries, brokered peace between tribal enemies.  These pioneers also uprooted their families and moved them far from the security of kinsman – all for the sake of the gospel.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELCPNG) of the 21st century grew out from the work of the Neuendettelsau and Rhenish Missionaries from Gemany. When the World War II reached the Pacific in 1942, most of the early German missionaries were repatriated. After the war, the Lutheran Churches of Australia and America were tasked to reconstruct the church, which the parties did together as the Lutheran Missions New Guinea.

It was in 1956 that the indigenous church was formed and called the Evangelical Church of New Guinea (ELCONG). The first Bishop was Rev. Kuder from the American Lutheran Church.

It was in the 1970s, that the ELCONG changed to ELCPNG. The first indigenous bishop was elected in 1973 and since then, the church has been run by the nationals. At the 500th year of reformation, the ELCPNG has had 30 synods.  The current ELCPNG Bishop is Reverand Jack Urame.

Earlier this year, the ELCPNG celebrated 131 years off Lutheranism. The ELCPNG is the second most popular church in PNG with 1.2 million members out of the 8 million population.  The ELCPNG is made up of 17 districts. These districts are further grouped into circuits, parishes and congregations is the lowest church unit recognised by the church.

The freedom to worship we enjoy today  is because this reformer broke the chains of oppression that kept people in slavery for lack of access to the truth. The message of hope and freedom in this act of reformation is timeless – it was real then, as it is now.

Papua New Guinea’s position in the reformation history is similar to the parable of the Labourers in Matthew 20: 1-16. We are like the worker who was recruited at 4pm to work in the garden only to get paid same wage as the man who started work at 7am. We are privileged to be born at a time when the gospel is free. We have not sacrificed for the gospel, no blood was shed like in the days of Luther.

The gospel may be free, but we are faced with new challenges. In this age and time, the church is under pressure to conform to the standards of the world.  Fatigue has also set in. As one of the last workers in the field, maybe we are called to re-evangelise the church. Maybe with our youthful exuberance, we are called to keep the 500 year old flame alive into the future.  May we seek Gods will about our place in the reformation story.

As we celebrate this momentous occasion let us remember that reformation is not just an historical event rather it is process of continually walking in faith according to the word of God. Reformation in this day and time is about testing passing trends against the timeless wisdom in the bible. We as individuals as well as the body of ELCPNG must step up and take our place in the reformation story.

Amen.

 

Finding myself in history

If she were alive, she would be 102 years old this year.   The year on her graveyard marker says that she was born in 1915. I imagine a tiny babe swaddled in bark cape and laid on a bed of moss.

Other aspects of her life from 1915 remain a mystery to me.  I cannot begin to picture her growing up, the games she played, her duties, her diet, her adornment and the other details.

According to history books, the turn of the century was the dark ages for PNG.

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Zia Warriors early 1900s. Source: Lutheran Church Archives

Professor John Waiko, one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) educated elite – a Binandere man, describes warfare, cannibalism, payback killing, and sorcery in my part of the world around the time my great grandmother was born.

My people, the Zia tribe held prime land along the Waria river, Morobe South Coast. My people were fierce warriors who defended our land from other hostile tribes.  These other tribes include the Binandere, the Mawae, The Suena and the Yekora.

A few decades earlier, the German and the British and Dutch, oblivious to the existence of the thousands of tribes, had drawn lines all over the island of New Guinea and were enforcing their colonial governments and disbanding “hausmans”  aka tribal parliaments.

The “hausman” that could not fight their own battles were looking for allies. That included accepting the colonial government in a hope, the guns of the colonial masters could help them fight their battles. The self-sufficient tribes initially rejected all colonial advances. But eventually succumb to the colonial powers.

While she played with her toes and looked into the sky from the comfort of her “bilum”, I wonder if my great grandmother saw aeroplanes because the airplane was already invented before she was born. Kodak products were routinely used to take color “snap shots”. The air condition, the escalator and the roller coaster were features already in existence in the West since the early 1900.

Around the time, she was born, Albert Einstein had completed his paper on the General Theory of Relativity.  And Adolf Hitler was a young man – a soldier in the World War I.  Micheal Leahy was a teenager: Leahy and his team of explorers and prospectors would be responsible for opening up the highlands to the world in the 1930s.

The West had transitioned from the industrial revolution and was at the end of the modern era around the time my great grandmother was born.

But she know that?  Did she care?

Two things of significance happened that seem to have shaped PNG.

First, in less than 100 years, PNG has been forced to assimilate a new culture – the culture of our colonists. We were forced to adopt the new way of living without understanding how the Western culture was shaped.

Our rank in the world near the bottom of the pile is based on judgement meted us on criteria we have had less than 100 years to adopt  – criteria which took hundreds of years to develop.

Second, the power centers of our tribes aka the ”hausman” were disbanded. The dissolution of the “hausman“ resulted in a loss of power and education for our warriors. Our warriors lost the pride to defend our ways and our land and resources.  And what more, our men lost their potency because without a “hausman” they moved into women’s house too soon.

According to my elders, the death penalty was the order of the day when the “hausman” ruled. There was no individual rights, there were only clan and tribal rights. Your allegiance was to your clan and tribe. Outside of it was death.

It was rough and dirty, but order was maintained. Births, initiations, adulthood, marriages, death all had a place and were celebrated. Diseases, deaths, and uncertainty were all part of life.

Fast forward time to 2017, PNG a construct of colonialism, has survived as a united nation for 41 years. But what identity are we projecting to the other nations of the world? Are we a united nation of warrior tribes or are we a tribe of weaklings looking for allies?

All the power we need to take back our pride as warrior nations is inside us. Just take a look in the mirror. Unfortunately, all mirrors have a perspective. All the colonial mirrors need to be smashed and ground to dust, same for religion, and for aspects of the outside cultures that bring more confusion than solutions.

What then, should be our true reflection? Look beyond your mother and your grandmother (or your patriline). Seek the image of your great grandparents and back.  Consider the stock you are born from.  Consider your tribe of proud warriors who fought all their battles for survival. Consider their honour and pride and resilience.

Where we are right now in space and time is a snapshot of the long walk our people have been on since our ancestors became custodians of the land we call New Guinea.  The walk will continue even after we are dead and gone. The lives and times of our ancestors is our history, and in time we will also become history and our descendants will judge us accordingly.

They will judge us for our betrayal to our warrior way of life. Indeed, we erred when we accepted as time zero the time Whitman stepped on our land; we erred when we accepted the colonial story about us as our story; we erred when we accepted that we are lesser people because it is a challenge to fit into an alien culture. We think that here and now is play school and that real life is after we have mastered a culture. While we tarry, our story is being written.

Cultures die when we lose pride in the ways of our ancestors. Cultures die when we undermine what we are and give up our place in time.  When culture dies, we lose our land, we lose our families and we lose ourselves.

Change is the only constant in the world and we will eventually evolve, but it should be on our terms.   Given so much that has happened, do we have time to salvage our history and pride?

My oral history takes me about 300 years back into my matriline. I am taken back 300 years of resilience. When I put my life into perspective, the 102 years since my great grandmother seem like yesterday and my 40 years of living a blink of an eye.

I am the fourth generation since my great grandmother, but the first generation since PNG became a nation in 1975.    The realization that I am as old as the history of my tribe but also as young as my nation is liberating.  I have the ancient wisdom of my land in my blood, but I am also educated in the ways of the West and can participate in the technologically advanced life in this post-modern era.

The life we are living is not our own, we are to defend the legacy of our ancestors and pass that spirit on to our descendants. Are we living up to our warrior spirit? If not, then, go home and dig your roots beyond your great grandmother and put yourself in perspective. Only then, can you set your priorities going forward.

When you find your place in history, ensure that this becomes the legacy your next generation builds on.

matriach

The Matriarch 1915 – 1970

Call of the Mama Graun to West Papua

****** Anthropological work shows that indigenous people in Melanesia relate to the bush and the resources within to be their source of personhood, society and sustenance. There is no distinction between the physical soil, the tribal land boundaries and nature contained on it – all these are generally referred to as land also Mama Graun or the great provider. The land is considered a gift from some mystical ancestor and therefore, there is strong emotional attachment to the land.

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Mama Graun.

Soft earth, hard rocks, round river pebbles, sharp karanas.

Yellow, black, white, red coloured earth.

Blue distant mountains, white sandy beach, and fiery sunsets.

Birds of Paradise, Kwila, dugong, tuna and gold.

My land, my identity, my soul, my being.

Mama Graun drank my life blood, spilled when I was born.

My umbilical cord buried in her

A promise in blood to remain close to her.

An oath only to be broken by death.

Mama Graun thriving on fat from my forefathers.

Warriors, hunters, gardeners, dancers, lovers

All born, breathed, died and offered back to nourish Mama Graun.

Their stories, my inspiration.

Their exploits, my pride.

Their secrets, my power.

Mama Graun, the custodian of my life force.

The tubuna songs we sang,

Shoulder–to-shoulder we stood

United by blood and history.

Pride rising in our voices,

Chasing the kundu beats above the highest canopies,

A rhythm that put fear into many hearts.

Together with my brothers, in my heartland

 I was invincible.

But how can I sing my song,

In a strange land, without my brothers

My ancestors bid me avenge my brother’s blood.

For his blood call to me,

From the swamplands, rivers, mountains, ditches

Where he lay, slain.

An altar of sacrifice – sacrifice of blood for freedom.

What song can I sing?

For I cannot even honour my brother with a decent burial.

While I weep, Mama Graun persists.

I must return to honour my pact;

To mama Graun, to my ancestors,

To my descendants yet to be born.

Together with my brothers, we will face the morning star,

To defend my Mama Graun,

For a free West Papua.

fee west papua selma

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