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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Bishops call for peace in West Papua and Honiara, urge young people to vote in upcoming election

Bishops call for peace in West Papua and Honiara, urge young people to vote in upcoming election

At Christmas, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands turns its thoughts to those who lost everything in the riots, to asylum seekers “stuck” for years by Australia on the island of Manus who will become the responsibility of Papua New Guinea on 1 January.

Port Moresby (AsiaNews) – Riots broke out in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, in the last week of November, “a stark reminder of how easily the peace-loving people of the Pacific can suddenly be overwhelmed by political passion, recrimination, and revenge,” reads the Christmas message of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands (CBCPNGSI), released at a press conference held today in Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In their pastoral letter for 2022, the bishops go on to say: “Since its beginnings in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands the Catholic Church has contributed to the betterment of society by shedding the light of the Good News of Jesus Christ on destructive cultural practices (sorcery, polygamy, warfare, and the suppression of women), by promoting positive cultural practices, and providing social, educational and health services to all without discrimination.”

“As Christmas approaches, some acutely suffering human beings are in our thoughts and in our prayers, particularly those who have lost everything in the Honiara fires, the women and children tortured in the PNG Highlands and elsewhere due to senseless sorcery accusations, the victims of COVID-19 and their families, the young people left to fend for themselves.”

Those suffering, the bishops point out, include the asylum seekers confined by Australia to the island of Manus since 2013, who will now be completely left in the hands of the PNG government as of 1 January.

In another plea, CBCPNGSI President Archbishop Anton Bal of Madang calls for action on behalf of seniors and the sick. “We are particularly and extremely worried about a list of a dozen people, whose conditions will soon descend into utter despair and physical destitution. For them we ask from the Australian government prompt intervention”.

Archbishop Bal also made an appeal for dialogue in West Papua, the part of the island of New Guinea under Indonesian sovereignty where tensions have risen again in recent months. “We believe that fifty-eight years of conflict are reason enough for all to accept that West Papua is not a settled issue and never will be in the current conditions.”

“A political compromise may not be easy and may not come fast. As a pre-condition, it requires a total ban on the use of force and the determination to negotiate till an agreement is reached to the satisfaction of all.”

Finally, the president of the Bishops' Conference made an appeal to young people ahead of the general elections on 25 June 2022 in Papua New Guinea. Noting that the turnout among young people was very low in 2017, Archbishop Bal urges young adults eligible to vote to register. “Make your voice heard. It’s your future at stake!” he writes.

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