What has become of our Repentance Day


THE turnout at the National Repentance Day event at the grounds of Parliament on Saturday was disappointing.
Saturday was Aug 26, and this day in Papua New Guinea is observed as Repentance Day and marked with a public holiday.
This religious holiday was established in 2011 by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
The idea itself was submitted by a group of churches to O’Neill’s predecessor, Sam Abal.
However, Abal was ousted from office before he could announce it.
It fell to O’Neill to make it happen, and he announced the first celebration of Repentance Day on Aug 15, 2011, only 11 days before the holiday itself.
Repentance Day was intended to be a day of Christian prayer when people would come together in church to pray and ask for forgiveness.
The Muslim community pointed out, however, that repentance is not something that should happen or be celebrated only once a year.
Repentance should happen all the time, the Muslims argued.
The ceremony in Port Moresby should have been attended by national leaders, church leaders and representatives of the provinces of the state.
It should have been one event that should have stopped the nation and brought people together to pray and focus on reconciliation.
It is a day not only for Christians, but for all people of all faiths.
It should be a day of joining of hands, of looking at our past and praying for our future.
In 2011, an Australian Catholic priest told his congregation during a Repentance Day Mass that a national day of repentance would be inconceivable in Australia and other developed countries.
He said if Australia had such a day, most Australians would spend it at the beach, not in church.
Is this what this day has become for us?
Judging by the attendance at the grounds of Parliament on Saturday, most of us probably spent it at the beach, with repentance, reconciliation and hope far from our mind.
We should look at National Repentance Day as we look at any other religious holidays, like Easter and Christmas, and observe them with the same level of reverence.
If we cannot give National Repentance Day the dignity it deserves then let’s not celebrate it at all.
Take away the public holiday and leave it up to people to decide how they wish to celebrate repentance and reconciliation in their life, whether it be in church or at the beach.

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