CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2018
The year 2018 draws to a close with little improvement on the conditions of life for most Papuanewguineans. Poverty remains widespread in the countryside with a lack of health services, roads and market opportunities for agricultural products. Tens of thousands of youth can only avail of primary education and never dream of going through the secondary and tertiary level. In urban centers, settlements keep on mushrooming. Jobs are scarcely available. Alcoholism remains rampant.
The country for the first time, however, successfully hosted a major international event in November when Asia-Pacific leaders came to Port Moresby for an economic cooperation forum which saw the United States and Australia on the defense against a new superpower. China does not expand into the Pacific by means of military hardware, but through economic enterprise and investments. The Chinese are natural entrepreneurs. Besides the big business, with their little stores, they are becoming a constant presence in the remotest villages of Papua New Guinea. No doubt that Port Moresby and Lae, but also Mt. Hagen, Madang, Buka, and other cities are more and more international centers with a large presence of Asians from China, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, and others.
This poses a challenge to young Papuanewguineans. Will the country remain Melanesian and controlled by Melanesians or will a new racial, political and financial blend emerge and shape the future? There is probably a need not to shut the doors to external cooperation, while the control of resources firmly remains in local hands and nurtures the growth of a better educated and better organized modern Melanesian society. To avoid our future being stolen we cannot rely on outsiders’ sense of honesty and respect. Papua New Guinea assets and resources now need to be actively protected and defended.
How? It certainly begins with us and those we elect in Parliament every five years. Their concern and sincerity in making deals that favor the people and not their inner circle are paramount. But discipline and sense of responsibility need to grow at all levels. A country that is largely drunk (spak) three days a week, from Friday to Sunday can easily be taken. No need for an army. Higher level of education, industriousness and business initiative are sufficient.
The festive season of the birth of Jesus will certainly give us inspiration. The child born in poverty in a manger never wanted to be rich. However, he filled himself with wisdom and justice. He gave glory to the Father while embracing the leper, consoling the widow, returning sight to the blind and calling for social justice rather than sacrifices and offerings in the Temple. He proved that progress and change can only take place by living for a larger purpose than our own personal interest.
Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to everybody from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands!
Fr. Giorgio Licini PIME