BY JOSEPH DAWAI
SEVERAL thousands of people gathered in Banz, Jiwaka to witness the launching of Papua New Guinea Christian Leaders Alliance (PNGCLA) 2018-2022 bottom-up plans on combating HIV/Aids in the Highlands Region.
The PNGCLA was established nine years ago out of concern over the way government and churches were dealing with the deadly disease.
They started the new way of dealing with HIV/Aids based on biblical principles and it has been a moving effort for the churches.
The PNGCLA consist of 20 churches in PNG coming together to form the taskforce team to fight HIV/Aids and other social issues in the country.
PNGCLA has set up two regional offices; one in Lae for the Momase region and the other at Minj in Jiwaka for the Highlands region while the Islands region and Bougainville offices are yet to be opened.
These offices will reach out to the vulnerable populations, right to the very remote areas of the regional settings.
The national PNGCLA secretariat is now well set up with a team working towards achieving its four recommendations made at the 2017 summit held in Port Moresby, which are to do with governance, advocacy, research and partnership networking.
According to the PNGCLA strategic plans Jiwaka is the first center to introduce its bottom-up plan to fulfil the church leaders’ viosion to carry the message to the larger audience in support of the National Aids Council’s five year Strategic Plan 2018-2022.
With this regional plan the churches are quite confident to address HIV/Aids and other social issues using the Holy Bible to fight against those problems that have been hindering national growth.
PNGCLA chairman and Catholic Church leader Sir John Cardinal Ribat told the gathering at Banz that everyone should appreciate the hard work of the church leaders and be part and parcel of the implementation process.
“These kinds of information have to be highly recognised by all levels of government in terms of funding for the implementation of policies and plans for better outcomes,” Cardinal Ribat said.
The churches have taken this new approach because all other approaches have failed to reduce the previous rates and up to now there are more than 70,000 Aids cases recorded by the National Aids Council this year.
Cardinal Ribat believes that this time the prevention message to fight against HIV is with the “power of the Holy Spirit in the almighty name of Jesus.”
The Highlands is the first region to receive the new approach by moving with the plans.
“Your body is the gift from God – scared, made in God’s image and likeness,” Cardinal Ribat told the gathering.
PNGCLA in the Spirit of Christ, helps people to stand before the mystery of suffering and to realise that even here God’s tender mercies can be experienced. The churches urge people to model their lives after Jesus, and confront oppressive structures and situations.
In 1987, the first HIV-positive case was reported in Papua New Guinea. The churches in PNG believe that the most devastating cause of HIV/Aids infection in our nation is a crisis in model values and lack of understanding and meaning of human sexuality.
The approach also focuses on helping infected persons through counselling to move from fear to hope, and to live with a sense of dignity.
The mission of the churches is to empower and inspire people through the gospel to enjoy holistic Christian living.
In a Christian PNG, the churches strongly condemn the use of condoms and sex work which allow the disease to increase because they promote adultery and fornication in society.
This also leads to other social law and order problems in the country as a whole.
Cardinal Ribat urges people to abstain from illegal sexual activities for the Holy Bible clearly states that sex is only meant for married couples.
PNGCLA deputy chairman Pastor Daniel Hewali also says the bottom-up plan will reach out to families and individuals in clans, tribes, LLG wards, districts and provinces in the Highlands region.
“Youths are the backbone of the nation and they must be educated to change their behaviours with the Biblical principles of life,” he said.
The PNGCLA acting National Coordinator Ps Kasi Tau, who was present at the gathering, further stressed that PNGCLA did not have any funding for its operations but believed that all things were possible with God Almighty through Jesus Christ.
“The only funding PNGCLA received was used to roll out its awareness programme and the response from people all around the country is tremendous and demanding,” Ps Kasi said.
He urged the government leaders and the private sector to fund the church programme to support the lives of people living with HIV/Aids virus to safeguard their human rights according to the Holy Bible.
“Churches have the answer and we are here to support the programme for PNGCLA to support the PNG Vision 2050 and beyond to produce a smart, fair, healthy and happy people for the glory of our Heavenly Father the God Almighty,” Ps Kasi said.
- Joseph Dawai is a freelance writer.