This Easter, the death of Jesus was remembered and shared the Whagi way in one of the parishes of Mt Hagen Archdiocese.
The idea to change the normal way of carrying the cross on Good Friday was brought about by Catholic priest, Fr Paul Walua of Banz Parish.
For many years Catholics of Banz Parish had carried the cross on Good Friday to signify the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on Mount Calvary more than 2,000 years ago. The Stations of the Cross for Banz Parish usually started at Dalmba, one of the six outstations and ended at the parish, a distance of close to 10 km. However, last Friday (April 19) was different as all parishioners gathered to mourn the suffering and death of Jesus.
Basing this idea of mourning on Mathew 1:23 (The virgin will be pregnant and will give birth to a son. They will name him Emmanuel), and Isaiah 7:14 (The young woman is pregnant and will give birth to a son. She will name him Immanuel)”, the parish priest said he wanted all to see Jesus as one of us and not a foreigner.
“I came up with this idea of hauskrai or mourning because when believing in Jesus, he is part of us and so we remember the death of Jesus in our culture. Just as we mourn the death of members of our community and society, we mourn the death of Jesus the Melpa way, Highlands’s style. So I have to mourn to show that I am sorry for the death of Jesus.
“And not only that but when we refer back to these two Bible texts, Jesus is our Emmanuel so let us involve Jesus in all that we do, including this Easter season. This is to show that Jesus is truly part of us when we do this in very own culture. We want to express this in our culture to say that we are surely sorry for the death of Jesus,” Fr Paul said.
“This is not to gain fame or downplay what the church has been practicing. This is about our personal relationship with Jesus,” he added.
And so the parishioners from the out-stations of Dalmba, Ambang, Tolu, Gunge, Kuiona and the Banz main station came in their different groups to the hauskrai.
Covered in mud, they came; men, women young and old all cried but not so much for Jesus but for themselves, as they recited what is said in the Bible.
As they entered the mourning grounds, they sang in chorus of how Jesus died and his last words to Mary and his disciple John. It was a really moving sight as mourners came in numbers and gathered at the foot of the cross, crying out recalling Jesus’ suffering.
As is practiced in the Waghi culture, mourners came in led by the women followed by men, bringing with them foodstuff, firewood and cash.
The idea of mourning, received positive feedback from the parishioners as many said this really had a personal effect on them.
“This programme shows that Jesus is of all cultures and races. He is one of us. When we make this connectivity, Jesus is no longer a foreigner but is one of us. This mourning programme has shown the people of Banz Parish that Jesus is one of us .This should be commended because it has touched the lives of many as I witnessed,” Fr Raphael Mel said.
Fr Mel, the rector of Good Shepherd Seminary in Fatima was also part of the programme, bringing with him a group from the seminary, including seminarians, staff and community members.
Robert Ngants, who has been a catechist all his life, said he has never experienced anything like this and the hauskrai in the Waghi way should be adopted by the church.
“I want to thank the priest and all who have had a hand in the planning of this programme as I feel that Jesus is part of my culture. Past years have been different as we moved with the crowd and did penance and remembered Jesus’ death, however, today’s programme is really fitting and I’m glad to say that I would want this to continue in the years to come.
“I now feel that Jesus is a Papua New Guinean, a Jiwakan, and my brother from the Karukanem clan of the Senglap tribe. I feel that connect with Jesus Christ, I no longer see him as a Jew who lived amongst his race and was crucified on the cross. I feel he is a local and I want to commend the good Lord for giving Fr Paul Walua that wisdom to put this idea forward,” said Ngants.
The hauskrai programme ended with everyone having something and eat and drink followed by Mass afterwards. All food contributions were handed over to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.
• Michelle Amba is a freelance journalist.