of Papua New Guinea
Diocese of Port Moresby
FROM THE ANGLICAN BISHOP OF PORT MORESBY
Recovering Our History by Bishop Peter Fox
Like most of my “wantoks”, the British, I am interested in history. History is important to us. We come from a land of castles and cathedrals, of Tudor cottages and prehistoric monuments. Every little village has its Church, usually dating back to the Fourteenth Century and earlier. Even some of our factories date from the Eighteenth Century. We “Brits” grow up hearing stories about Robin Hood and Arthur, Kings and Queens and famous pirates. We build in stone and brick, not kunai and palm, so our buildings survive the ravages of time. We have been writing down our stories since the Romans were our colonial overlords.
Papua New Guinea has a long history too. The first PNG ancestors arrived around fifty thousand years ago. However, much of the history of Papua New Guinea is forgotten. There are no books and precious few monuments. Papua New Guineans depend on the memories of the old and as the old people die so much is forgotten and lost. That is a pity. We can learn from the past. When we know our history we can learn from our ancestors, try to avoid their mistakes and rediscover their wisdom. We can use what we learn so the legacy we leave behind will be one our grandchildren can cherish in their turn. It seems a pity that so much of the story of Papua New Guinea has been told by others. The Papua New Guinean story needs to be told and preserved by Papua New Guineans. We need to listen to the old people, and to capture on tape and in writing the things they can tell us before it is lost. The story of our own time needs to be preserved too. We cannot afford to leave it to foreigners to write our history for us.
Christianity, of course, is a historical religion. It is about the wonderful things God has done for us in the past, and the things he is doing now, in our own time. God’s history is being written in the lives of ordinary human beings like ourselves. History is His Story. He was at work in Papua New Guinea long before the missionaries came, but so much of what he did for the ancestors has been forgotten.
Thank goodness there are people now working with the Universities, and with organizations like the Melanesian Institute to recover PNG history but much more needs to be done. Each of us has a part to play in preserving the record of our history for our descendents and we have the tools to make this possible. We have writing, we have video and audio recorders. Simply placing our own family’s story on record is a great gift for those who come after. Of course, our ancestors were not always right. The history of my own people is clear evidence of that. Nor are we immune from mistakes, but we should give future generations the opportunity to learn from our experiences. It does not matter if the things we write are published or not. If we only pass the story on to our children we will have done something wonderful for our family. After all, the Ten Commandments tell us to honour our fathers and mothers. Remembering them accurately and gratefully is the least we can do to honour them
Bishop of Port Moresby.