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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Democracy in God's business

THE office of the head of a church of 1.3 million Papua New Guineans carries no small clout. 

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, a truly nationalized and autonomous body in the Lutheran World Federation prides itself in being a major provider of health and education services in the country, second perhaps only to the Catholic Church.

The person presiding over the church which also runs a successful line of business, owns a teacher training institution, a seminary and soon a university, is someone with power.

The recently ended 27th Synod of the ELC voted in academic/minister Giegere Wenge as the church's chief shepherd.  He takes over from where former acting head bishop and new deputy head bishop Rev. Zau Rapa has left.  Zau Rapa had also been deputy to another great Lutheran leader in the late former head bishop Rev. Dr. Wesley Kigasung.

Rev. Wenge was voted in through the democratic means which dictates that the choice of the majority wins.  An undesirable bi-product of that process was a confrontation between two delegations from Simbu. 
When earnest prayer seeking the guidance of the man above is left out, you are left with Waigani-style lobbying and money changing hands, which is possible even in a church election. This is not to say that that was what transpired at ELC synod.

A delegate from the Simbu congregation charged that the other Simbu group had not supported their cause to vote in a "Highlander" to the top job after the church was run by "Coastals" ever since its birth.  It was a sad day PNG politics and regionalism crept right into the church of God.   Or did those un-Christian traits germinate in the church and flourish in the secular world?

The Simbu man expressed his displeasure after the election results were announced.
Whatever his feelings - and those of other delegates who wanted someone else as head bishop,  Rev Wenge is the man to hold the church on course for the next four years. 

His is a position of power; one that is to be envied even by politicians and aspiring politicians.  In Morobe at least, if you have the backing of the Lutheran Church membership in any election, you are counted among the serious contenders.

But the democratic process is unfortunately not always God's method in making leaders for his people.  It is the best we mortals are left with though. 

Therefore those who hold positions of power over man in God's behalf have an awesome responsibility - responsibility that should be exercised almost with fear. History is littered with reminders of blunders or controversies arising from decisions by church men in the name of God.

Pope Paul IV's 1968 encyclical letter Humane Vitae that prohibits any artificial contraception, for instance, had met dissenension in the church then and still does. Rev Wenge wields power and influence that the Lutheran membership and the nation expect him to use with the greatest care, setting the human soul as his primary business. Any deviation from that, fed by political ambition and a hunger for power and prestige, would only lead to misery in his church and the country generally.

PNG looks to Rev Wenge for leadership - Christ-like leadership that would be a relief from what we have been getting from those who deem themselves masters instead of servants.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The actions of the few must haunt them now

WHOEVER unlocked the cage will get mauled.  If that is not going to be at the hands of the very beast let out, it will certainly be by another, perhaps a more ferocious one. 

But naturally, that would take time.  Unfortunately, before that comes to pass, a lot more innocent bystanders will be attacked or made to suffer some loss because the dangerous beast is now on the loose, maybe with vengeance in mind.   That goes without saying that the escaped beast itself will also meet its fate.

If this will be of some small impact, we do echo the voice of police to the public to be vigilant.  Give no room to the evil that lurks and would pounce on any given opportunity.   Beware, the hunted is also on the hunt; it is looking out for complacency, negligence and plain foolhardiness.

We are referring to the many dangerous criminals that have escaped the grasp of law enforcement agencies in the space of just a few months, if not weeks.  The most significant of such escapes has been that of famed bank robber William Kapris and his band of high risk prisoners from Bomana's maximum security unit.
The media has been fed with after-the-event rumour and conspiracy theories; some plausible, others detrimental to efforts to recapture to escapees.

Metropolitan Superintendent Fred Yakasa has come out publicly to state that three warders have been charged for abetting the escape.

CIS Commissioner Richard Sikani has reportedly stated that one of his charges had collected a large sum of money from somewhere to help the prisoners escape.

All that is coming in the heat of the moment.  When the muddied waters settle, the truth will surface.  And one truth that the PNG public would want to know is:  Whether Kapris is the real culprit or is he simply a pawn set up by some person or entity much more sinister than the lone jail breaker and his accomplices.
The public is simply baffled over the seemingly effortless escape of the prisoners at Bomana.

That a female human rights lawyer fronts up one day and requests to see a resident of the maximum security unit without any approval from the Commissioner is simply beyond belief.  How did she even go through the initial checkpoint without any body search to detect her side arm? How and why did it happen with such ease, Mr Commissioner?  Such questions can only be answered in the official investigation now underway.
After the Madang and Kerema bank robberies the rumour mill was filled with stories of some higher-up people being involved and that the proceeds of these crimes might eventually end up in those people's bank accounts.

Whether there is any element of truth in those rumours is yet to be established; when and how that truth becomes known may be a long way away yet.

The one thought that gives us some comfort though is that same fate awaits both the predator and the prey.  Today's ferocious, merciless monster will become tomorrow's helpless prey to another of its own kind or at the hands of the law.

We pray for their personal safety of the overworked Police and CIS personnel in the efforts to recapture these dangerous persons.  While the rest of us sleep peacefully, theirs is the reality of keeping one eye open in their sleep.  The hunted runs but when cornered, fights back ruthlessly.  May good and justice prevail always.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What a week that was!

THE WEEK that has been was one in which the news media did not have to look for or 'make up' news.  But most of what was big news was all grim though.

Locally as well as internationally, it has all been shocking, tragic and horrific week.  In fact no expletives would do justice to what has befallen us here and one other nation on earth.

Haiti, known as a poor nation by world standards, was struck by a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake.  Port-au-prince, the capital of this Caribbean nation was worst hit.

According to the Associated Press, dazed survivors wandered past dead bodies in rubble-strewn streets on Wednesday, crying for loved ones, and rescuers searched collapsed buildings as officials feared the death toll from Haiti's devastating earthquake could reach into the tens of thousands.

The first cargo planes with food, water, medical supplies, shelter and sniffer dogs headed to the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation a day after the magnitude-7 quake flattened much of the capital of 2 million people.

Tuesday's earthquake brought down buildings great and small - from shacks in shantytowns to President Rene Preval's gleaming white National Palace, where a dome tilted ominously above the manicured grounds.

Hospitals, schools and the main prison collapsed. The capital's Roman Catholic archbishop was killed when his office and the main cathedral fell. The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission was missing in the ruins of the organization's multistory headquarters.

Bodies were everywhere in Port-au-Prince: those of tiny children adjacent to schools, women in the rubble-strewn streets with stunned expressions frozen on their faces, men hidden beneath plastic tarps and cotton sheets.

Haiti's leaders struggled to comprehend the extent of the catastrophe - the worst earthquake to hit the country in 200 years - even as aftershocks still reverberated.

Haiti seems especially prone to catastrophe - from natural disasters like hurricanes, storms, floods and mudslides to crushing poverty, unstable governments, poor building standards and low literacy rates.
US President Barrack Obama described the disaster, its aftermath and frantic attempts to find survivors as heart-wrenching.

The planned visit by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Port Moresby on Thursday was postponed.  A short press release from the US Embassy in Port Moresby read:  "Due to the serious tragedy in Haiti, the remainder of Secretary Clinton's Asia-Pacific visit is officially postponed.  Secretary Clinton informed Prime Minister Somare directly about the postponement.  They agreed to reschedule the visit to Papua New Guinea at a mutually agreeable time in the future."

Our daily newspapers reported that PNG's best known bank robber William Nanua Kapris escaped maximum security at Bomana. In the company of Kapris were some of the most wanted men who pose a serious threat to national security when on the run. While the Correctional Service management and police, along with National Security Advisory Committee are working around the clock on that security threat, families of the 40 plus passengers who perished in that horrific accident in the Markham Valley are trying to come to terms with the reality of the loss.

From reports in the dailies, we learn that families in the Western Highlands, Chimbu, Eastern Highlands and Morobe are in mourning. By relation, people in other parts of the country may also be mourning when news of the disaster reached them.

It has been a week of calamity for PNG and a faraway nation that has much in common with us.
While the Haiti earthquake was something beyond human control, the loss of men, women and the little ones - their bodies strewn about like lifeless objects in the Markham Valley or dangling from twisted wrecks - could have been avoided.

But that is as much as we can say about the accident at the moment.  Our hearts go to the families who lost loved ones in the PMV buses involved in the accident. We can only imagine the emotions and share in the sense of loss.