Port Moresby: The Christmas Spirit of sharing and caring was evident in the atmosphere of the small West Papuan Refugee Camp at Rainbow Gerehu, as 71 families each received food hampers valued at K30.
The special visit made on Wednesday 9th December, had the attendance of four Religious from the ‘Sisters of Charity of St Anne' (SCSA) Congregation, staff of Caritas PNG and the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI, and the presence of more than sixty people both young and old.
During the short visit, children were treated to the delight of having Santa Claus in their midst as Stephanie Keikei, an assistant of the Congregation, dressed in the jolly red and white suit and presented candies to all present. Delivering the opening remarks on behalf of the camp leader was Olivianna Fonataba, this was followed by a word of prayer from Pastor Bas Fairio that formally opened the program.
Sr Mary Joseph SCSA, Principal of St Anne Elementary School in Gerehu, reminded families gathered of the reason for celebrating Christmas and said it was a time of rejoice and hope for the Son of God. “This is a time of happiness because as we are called to remember Jesus’ birth in the manger, and in doing so we are required to share and spread this same happiness with others who are less fortunate,” she said.
In her reflection of the meaning of Christmas, she also acknowledged the current low standard of living experienced by all members of the camp especially the children, and called on the Government and responsible authorities to look into matter and address their problems. “We cannot keep denying and ignoring that they are not part of PNG because they also deserve the right to a good life and fair treatment, and ways have to be formulated to help improve their livelihood,” she added.
Sr Gracy Panakkal SCSA, Officer-in-Charge and Nurse at the St Paul’s Clinic in Gerehu, recalled her past experience of services in Manila Philippines providing rations and medical provisions to the poor, and said it was an honour to be here in PNG serving its communities.
Mr Donatus Nahak, Refugee Resettlement Officer of Caritas PNG, said the visit was intended to show solidarity despite the difficulties and was to foster and strengthen the already existent friendship between the camps and the Catholic Church. “Although COVID-19 is still causing mayhem around the world and worries for our people here, we are prepared to share with them their suffering as exiles who fled their home country due to persecution just as Christ did,” he said.
Pentana Bonggoibo, Youth Leader of the Rainbow West Papua Camp in charge of helping and guiding young individuals away from negative practices, expressed his thanks to the Religious Congregation but pleaded for more outreach programs that emphasized the importance of education. “I work closely with the youths in my camp and although some of them have been sponsored to do short training courses, many are still left lingering and this is a direct factor that causes them to lose interest and sight of the importance of education. They have to be reminded and empowered to never lose hope,” he said.
The day’s program ended with a heartfelt closing prayer given by Sr Ancy John SCSA, Secretary of Right Relationships in Ministry of the Catholic Bishops Conference.