118 Years of Faith and Post Crisis Challenges in Bougainville 

-      Fr. Brian Nonde CMM

 

The faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Bougainville gathered in hundreds at the Pro-Cathedral Church in Hahela to celebrate the 118 years of faith. 

 

Bishop Rochus Tatamai, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands presided over the Liturgy of Mass. Women and men led the procession with the traditional bamboo singsing style.

 

The celebration that took place on Wednesday 8 August recalled the work of first German Marist Missionaries who came to Pokpok Island in Kieta, Central Bougainvillein1901. The significance of 118 years of faith among the Bougainvilleans is hidden in a continuity of the Gospel message spread first by the missionaries in the face of many political challenges of today.

 

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is currently looking at the future of its political and even economic affairs. Reflections on the crisis era of 1988-1997, which led to about 20,000 deaths, is now leading the Region to a Referendum and beyond that, a possibility of the Islands total political and economic independence or highest autonomy from the government of Papua New Guinea.

 

The President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG/SI, Bishop Rochus Tatamai reflected on these political challenges. He said that "the role of Church during the referendum and after the referendum is fostering peace and reconciling people of different clans, beliefs and political opinions".

 

The Vicar General of the Diocese of Bougainville, Fr. Polycarp confirming the outlined role of the Church said that, the Church will help the people of Bougainville during the processes leading to the Referendum and beyond by through reconciliation services. The diocese, he added, “as set up spiritual programs to guide the faithful during the referendum and after the referendum. “Bougainville spiritual referendum programs that are aimed at informing and

Forming consciences and that seek to foster peace through the celebration of sacrament of reconciliation are some those spiritual programs that the clergy and faithful are participating in". 

 

At the beginning of the liturgy of Mass that marked the anniversary Bishop Rochus blessed water during the penitential rite which then was sprinkled on the people. This same blessed water is to be taken out to the people in the communities and parishes used during the reconciliation services. 

 

Not only did the Catholic Church in Bougainville celebrated 118 years of faith but launched its first radio station DOB FM 103.1.The launch was aimed at presenting, for

The first time, the different way of Church's presence to the people in Bougainville. "The radio station will be a unique way of Diocese's self-presentation to the people" said Fr. Martin We-en, Director of Radio Maria PNG during the launch. The launch of the new radio station cames with the media and radio training seminar which was organised by SOCOM. The seminar gathered about 30 people and four directors of the Catholic radio stations. 

 

During the seminar the faithful were told to guard themselves against the misreading messages, to use the media as an instrument of spreading the truth. The radio station that was launched Wednesday 8 August will communicate its Gospel messages of hope, peace and love and reach the masses. In the context of the current situation the Church will finally be able to present its formal position on many issues. 

 

"We have had up to now no formal information for the Catholic faithful in and out of

Bougainville due to our own “Media Blockade” “wrote Bishop Bernard Unabali in the email to the new Radio Manager of DOB FM 103.1. 

 

Different stakeholders and government officials, including Honourable Joe, Member of Parliament for AROB congratulated the Catholic Diocese of this achievement and milestone. 

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