Church takes charge of schools
By JOHN KUPUL
CHURCHES have played a pivotal role in the transformation of societies from before colonial influence into the modern era.
One of the mainline churches that was at the forefront in transforming the lives of the people is the Evangelical Brotherhood Church (EBC).
The birthplace of EBC in Papua New Guinea is in Jiwaka.
Missionaries from Switzerland and Germany brought the church into the country in the early 1950s.
The missionaries decided to land at the former Minj, once a thriving airstrip which served most parts of the interior of the highlands region.
Upon arrival, they chose three locations to start the work of evangelisation in the Waghi Valley: Tsigmil towards the eastern end of Minj, Mondomil towards the southern part of Minj (headwaters of Minj) and Kugark in the western end.
All three locations are in the South Waghi electorate of today’s current Jiwaka Province.
The missionaries decided to build churches in those respective locations and started converting the heathens and lost souls.
Not only that but the most significant and an integral part of the mission work was the establishment of agency schools.
Simultaneously, health services had also been established alongside schools. Those institutions were envisaged as important pillars, spearheading integral human development.
Many highlanders got converted and most of them assisted in the spread of the Gospel to other parts of the Waghi Valley including North Waghi and Jimi, and later into East Kambia.
As was the mandate of the missionaries, local laymen, pastors and missionaries continued to spread the Gospel while steadfastly embracing education and health programmes in every new area of evangelisation.
The church played a critical role by way of civilisation particularly in the highlands region, balancing spiritual, physical and mental capacity development.
The church continued to spread fast into other parts of the highlands region and further into the coastal regions including the New Guinea Islands.
To date, the EBC church exists in almost every province in the country with a very large following and continues to grow from strength to strength and equitably contributes immensely to the development of this country.
A decade ago, the EBC sent out its first missionaries to foreign countries including East Timor and that is another achievement for the church as far as spiritual development and expansion are concerned.
Recently, the EBC Education sector celebrated a milestone achievement at Timil Waghi near Minj. The EBC education sector is no longer part of the Church Education Services (CES) but it is finally recognised and commissioned by the National Education Board (NEB) through the National Department of Education as an independent church agency – the ‘EBC Education Agency’ with a secretariat of its own.
Currently, EBC has well over 80 schools including primary, high and secondary schools in the country.
With the granting of the separate agency status by the NEB, the agency will likely consider building its own tertiary institutions.
David Gumoing, a retired teacher who later embraced God’s call to become a pastor of the EBC has been working tirelessly for many years to have the EBC education sector recognised as an education agency of its own.
After his relentless efforts, the church’s dream has finally come to fruition this year, and the EBC community have a reason to celebrate this milestone in the history of the church in PNG.
While his efforts are highly commended, one of the very instrumental figures who has played a pivotal role to getting the separate agency status is former North Waghi MP, Benjamin Mul aka Action Ngalye.
Mul was commended for providing all the necessary support in terms of logistics and finance.
Mul, a devout EBC Christian said: “I’ve grown up in this church (EBC) and I’ve become a successful businessman and politician.
“I am a proud EBC man and I own this church,” Mul said adding that he will forever stand by this church to see it sail through the years to come.
However, he testified that he was never swayed by the love of money or material possession.
“I continued to invest in God’s kingdom and I will continue to do it.
“Today’s event marks an important milestone in the history of the church, especially with the education sector and I’m proud to be part of this change as it also reflects my contributions.”
He called on EBC Christians and elites to start chipping in their contributions both financially and technically so that they can build on from the EBC Education Agency status granted by the NEB) through the Department of Education.
Mul is certain that there are a lot of things that need to be done to run the church’s own education affairs after cutting off from the CES of which EBC was part of the Evangelical Alliance agency.
“That’s a challenge we all need to embrace in order to get it off the ground,” he said.
Mul is currently doing his master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Divine Word University.
He is the director of Waigani Christian School in Port Moresby which provides quality education to students from elementary level to Grade 12.
A staunch supporter of the EBC and female principal of EBC-run Waghi Valley Secondary School in Jiwaka, Betty Wena described EBC as one of the best and well-managed entities that has strived hard over the years to attain this status in the provision of education services.
Wena congratulated and commended the hard working church and education leaders for their input.
Former Kerowaghi MP Camilus Dagma acclaimed EBC as one of the best entities renowned for its work commitments and management, adding that he had great confidence that the new agency would get off the ground.
Jiwaka provincial education superintendent, Andrew Kuk shared similar sentiments, adding that EBC had well-established systems in place and was capable of running its own affairs.
Department of Education assistant secretary, Monitoring and Planning John Kawage while presenting the credentials to the church and education leaders said public-private partnership (PPP) was the way forward for development in this country.
Kawage said EBC qualified to be granted the education agency status and the NEB had confidence in it and approved it to operate as a separate and fully functional education agency like those of other mainline churches.
The church that was introduced by the Swiss and German missionaries in the early 50s and has grown and flourished in the Waghi Valley (now Jiwaka) is making vibes in its education sector.
- John Kupul is a freelance writer.
Mungkas Association sets agenda
In the aftermath of the historic ABG elections where a former BRA commander has been voted president, we reproduce an article that Bougainvillean writer Chris Baria, wrote for PNG Echo just before his untimely death.
By CHRIS BARIA
THE first time I heard the word ‘referendum’ was back in 1968 through my maternal uncle who was spending his holidays with us. I was eight years old at the time.
Uncle James Rutana was the one after my mother in a family of six; they were close. My father was also fond of his well-educated brother in-law with whom he liked discussing issues of the day.
It was one of those nights, by the light of kerosene lamp that my uncle explained to us what a referendum was. And he knew what he was talking about.
I later learnt that my uncle had been a member of a group of Bougainvillean tertiary students from Port Moresby (and maybe other centres as well) who had formed themselves into a quasi-political movement called Mungkas Association.
On Sept 8, 1968, soon after CRA (Cozinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd was renamed CRA in 1980 before becoming Rio Tinto Group) announced that there was an estimated 900 million tonnes of low grade copper at Panguna, two out of the three members of the PNG House of Assembly and 22 students met in Port Moresby to discuss a referendum to choose whether Bougainville should remain part of Papua New Guinea, secede or become part of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (now the Solomon Islands – an independent nation-state).
To effect their goal, and on a purely volunteer basis, the students used their Christmas break to raise awareness on the referendum vote that had been discussed in Port Moresby.
As they started to move around the communities in Kieta District, a pro-Australian ex-serviceman [named] who had served with the Coastwatcher Paul Mason during World War II heard about what the students were doing. He was one of a small group who had been advised by Australian missionaries and government officers that Bougainville ought not to break away from Papua New Guinea.
The Australian reported the students to the Australian government – a government that was pro a political status quo where Bougainville was politically governed by Port Moresby. As a result, all activities in preparation for possible independence were stifled by the PNG government.
That was how the first attempt at staging a referendum ended – the battle was lost, but the war wasn’t over (both metaphorically and actually).
The failure of this referendum spawned a couple more unilateral declarations of independence. One on Sept 1, 1975 just two weeks before PNG independence on Sept 16, 1975, and again during the Bougainville conflict on May 17, 1990.
At the start of the conflict in 1990, I, and many others, believed that had the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) gotten their act together they may have effectively taken independence for Bougainville then.
The PNG Government had withdrawn from the island totally, leaving an opportunity for the BRA to step into the breach.
By then, the Papua New Guinean cause had lost the sympathy of the Bougainville population when the security forces started to take out their frustrations on the civilians when they failed to apprehend the BRA ‘rebels’.
From this, the independence movement, triggered by the war over the mine at Panguna and prosecuted by the BRA, gained wide support throughout Bougainville: from north to south and east to west.
However, eventually, this support was sorely tested when, finding there was no enemy to fight some of the BRA started to mistreat their own people, settling old scores using the power they had acquired through the barrel of the gun.
As the young, post-crisis writer Leonard Fong Roka wrote in 2014:
“The problem with these political manoeuvres was that the politicians had no power over the reckless BRA men who, over time, had carved their own mini-spheres of influence as they pursued a lawless grab for the spoils of war gains and the opportunity to remedy past grievances.”
Independence, at that time was a rare opportunity that we were unable to harness.
But this was a war that was not fought by an institutionalised army with a proper chain of command. This was far more anarchical with all the attendant risks that flow from an armed force with a lack of hierarchical authority. The power of the gun was available to be abused and it was.
Had independence happened then, by now, we would have built up an indigenous-based system of government and organised an economy based on a wide range of resources and innovations.
In reality, we had our first taste of effective independence (if not actual) when the PNG government imposed an economic blockade on the island during the war. With supplies blocked, people became innovative; they reinvented hydro power, they used coconut oil as substitute for diesel fuel, villagers traded with each other in whatever way they could either using cash or bartering items and goods. As the war deepened and the PNGDF came back to Bougainville to fight and regardless of the rogue antics of some of the BRA, media personnel and some government officials in Bougainville stated that all of the people with whom they had spoken wanted secession and independence.
There was no question of the unity and total support for the call to independence, they said.
And it seems that the word on the street (and elsewhere) is that things have not changed for this upcoming independence vote.
Looking back at those times when a referendum was illegal; students worked without funds to raise awareness and educate their mostly illiterate people on the finer points of a referendum.
They walked over the mountains and valleys and along the beaches to bring to their people the message of a referendum and the hope of independence – a hope that has remained with us to this day.
If, before we became disoriented and disunited due to abuse of power by some of our fighting men, we were able to stand together against what we perceived as a common enemy, then what better reason is there for us to huddle together once more than the hope of independence; a hope past generations have instilled in us and a reality that this generation has the power to effect – in their honour.
A significant ‘yes’ vote for independence is going to be very hard for the PNG government to ignore.