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  • Isabella Saleu and Jessica Oata

Church in PNG and SI express solidarity with victims in Ukraine

Port Moresby: “The Catholic faithful of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands joins the Holy Father Pope Francis in expressing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine during this time.”

This statement was made by the Archbishop of Mt. Hagen, Abp. Douglas Young svd, during a Press Conference held on 16th March 2022 at the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI. Also presenting their statements were Fr Giorgio Licini PIME, General Secretary of CBC PNG SI and Mavis Tito, Director of Caritas PNG.

Abp. Douglas spoke on behalf of the President of CBCPNGSI and Archbishop of Madang Abp. Anton Bal, saying that when we call for peace, we are not telling Ukraine to stop defending itself but Russia to stop the invasions, assaults, and bombings on a free and independent nation.

“In PNG, we need to also reflect on what happens when we lose our democracy. If you give too much power to one person, this is what dictatorship does. As we prepare for the National General Elections, it’s very important for us that we cherish our democracy and see how fragile it is. Let us learn from what is happening there and promise ourselves that the same does not happen in our country. Our votes are very important in choosing the right type of leaders”, Abp. Douglas said.

He also stressed on what happens when there is no free press. In Russia, anyone speaking out on the war or even mentioning the word ‘war’ may be jailed for up to 15 years. In PNG, we enjoy the privilege of having a free press where we can challenge our leaders when things do not go the way we believe should be. He made a stern call to Papua New Guineans to protect the freedom of the press.

Adding that in the context of globalization, we should not see this war as something foreign because there were many implications that were already arising such as the increase in fuel prices which was just the start of the challenges our economy could face if the war continued.

He urged Papua New Guineans to pray for peace, work for peace, work together to achieve peace and to always be in solidarity with all mankind no matter how far they were from us, especially victims of violence, abuse, domination because we all depend on each other.

“As Christians, we are united in prayer asking Our Lady, Queen of Peace, to guide, protect and help us all in this difficult time. We ask that she generously bestows upon us the gifts of her maternal goodness and help mankind become one family in solidarity and peace,” the statement concluded.

In his presentation, Fr. Giorgio gave a background on the war in Ukraine describing it as ‘complex’ and stating that the problem is not with the Western influence over Ukraine but with Russia and its political interests.

He stated that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia creates a concern for everybody, and we must find ways to show solidarity to the refugees of the war and pray for peace and the safety and security for everybody.

Whilst looking at refugees from the Ukrainian war, Fr. Giorgio encouraged all PNG citizens not to forget the refugees we have in PNG. He said that although PNG is a big country with a small population, we have a good number of refugees, especially West Papuans, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.

The press conference stands as a Call for Peace in Ukraine after Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24th, 2022, causing millions to flee their homeland for safety. Some lucky enough to make it past the boarders into Poland especially, while others separated from their loved ones or even killed along the way. Among these are women and young children.

The Catholic Bishops Conference also pledged K50,000 to relief efforts through the Archdiocese of Lviv in Ukraine.

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