By THEO YASAUSE
BOMANA Prison inmates have been part of the annual Way of the Cross procession in the Diocese of Port Moresby over a number of years.
The inmates are selected across a number of denominations as part of the Body of Christ Prison Ministry. Although it is an event for the Catholic faithful, inmates from many others denominations also joined in the procession to recall the journey the Lord Jesus Christ took the memory that is unspeakably hard and painful.
For the Bomana inmates, it is a time they become one with the voiceless to speak and to share the time of Christ suffering and pain. For the 2019 walk three main themes emerged to consolidate their faith as Christians first not as Catholics or protestants or whatever denominations they represent and these are: (1) One voice for the voiceless, (2) The consciousness of God, and (3) The restoration and freedom in Christ (we carry our cross, we endure the pain and suffering, we die – we rise) incarnated in the Spirit.
One voice for the voiceless
The silent voices are unheard daily. These voices are from the prisoners, the sick, the unemployed youths, the disabled, the homeless, the hungry, the mothers and girls, the marginalised and vulnerable sectors of our society. Many are faced with problems that do not surface in public domain.
However, the walk signifies the pain and suffering Jesus went through and many ordinary citizens as they go about their daily life. The Way of the Cross was not an ordinary walk, it was a walk to trade off the pain, suffering, the guilt, the hurt, the jealousy, the worry and all the negative emotions that people are faced with every day.
If somebody offended them or did not treat them right, it’s easy to let that offence stay. It may not feel good to carry around a grudge. But the Way of the Cross reminds us to remove and trade that grudge, that pain as it is not healthy.
The more you keep the more it hurts and it takes up space you need for the good things that move you towards your destiny. It is trade that with something better and solemn.
The last word of Jesus on the cross signifies that voice: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” This statement is a very significant one before He died on the cross. Christ had to empty himself of the things that could have held him back.
It was a walk that has no place for darkness and impurities of life such as resentment, self-pity, doubt, worry, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Impurities come in the form of worry, doubt, self-pity, anger, hatred, impatient, roughness, unfaithfulness, and push out the goodness in us as individuals. They contaminate our life too often that we lose our destiny and life purpose.
It was a walk for the prisoners to recall and trade their past with love, joy, and peace. It was a time for the prisoners to join their voices with the youths, mothers and children to cry out “Abba Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.”It signifies a shift in thinking and utterance, and to embrace humanity with love and hope.
It has become clearer during the walk that a relaxed attitude lengthens life, impurities rot goodness. The oppression of the poor and the voiceless is insulting to God, a sound heart is life to the body. A pure heart will find peace and joy and inherit the kingdom of God, a promise embraced by the prisoners.
We know that we are washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are made a new creation that signifies a change and reformed heart and mind. The red of our uniform signifies the blood of Jesus; the blue represents universal love. We are free in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ by faith.
Consciousness of God
As the prisoners mingled and participated with the crowd that carried the cross from Gerehu through to Erima, it become evident that those who went about the Way of the Cross were really the youths, the marginalised, the oppressed and poorer segment of society.
The expressions of emotions and the feeling of oneness with God were evident. They were very conscious of God and the need for God’s grace and help in their time of sorrow and pain. God himself can be the comforter and helper in their time of need and rightly so. Mothers and girls shed tears recalling the way Christ was crucified for their iniquities.
Like Christ, along the way, the faithful met friends, loved ones, enemies, some fell, and others walked off due to weariness. This is a constant reminder that the life journey is filled with sorrows and pain and requires the need for God.
For the prisoners, three lessons came out of people’s consciousness of God.
First, listen and learn – As we walked through the 14 Stations of the Cross procession, we listened and learnt a lot. We heard people praying earnestly for love, and forgiveness. Young women and girls were crying for care and support for their needs for security and wanting a better future and safer society.
Youths cried for justice and equity for their livelihood. Prisoners praying for physical freedom, mothers embracing and praying for their children’s future, their education, employment and income. We learnt that sometimes it is good for us to just listen and learn from others around us. If only you listen and observe you will see the road ahead better than if you speak as speaking blocks the ears and blinds you from listening and seeing what is happening around you.
Second, amplify the voice – the Way of the Cross amplified the voices of the voiceless. Many among the multitude that walked faced an uncertain future by world standards in their unjust situations. They walked and uttered prayers for their God to hear and answer them.
The oppressed can find their freedom in God through Jesus Christ. The walk amplified that to a larger extend.
The Easter messages from various churches and political leaders tried to bring out some value to point to the significance of the cross. The removal of all forms of oppression from youth unemployment, to a just, healthy and a brighter future for everyone is the voice to be amplified. For the prisoners, God answered their prayers by hosting His Eminence Sir John Ribat at the minimum security unit (MSU) of Bomana for the Easter Sunday Service.
After the service, His Eminence was presented with a petition for fairness and equity to amplify their considerations for physical freedom. There is no weapon and ammunition to use but to be a mouth piece for the oppressed and the destitute to amplify their needs and concerns.
Thirdly, the walk signified the voice for both tragedy and resilience.
Each station had a group of Catholic youths to take lead. Each would take turn to carry the cross and hand it over to the next group.
What was significant was that each station of the cross spoke a lot about the understanding of justice and transformation. They spoke of the tragedy of the painful and cruel death of Jesus and also the resilience with which Jesus withstood the pain and suffering.
They spoke of the pain and suffering the various segments of society are faced with in a place of injustice. Jesus wasn’t helpless; he was able to walk, he was helped by people, he had associated with and along the way he met friends, enemies and out of love to give us a fountain of grace and offered reconciliation.
Each step of the walk is a step closer to accomplishing the plan of salvation.
In our tragedies, problems and difficulties of life, we can find resilience in God for ourselves to help meet our own needs. No one else can do that for us, it lives in us to make that choice
Freedom in Christ Jesus
As prisoners of the State, yes we are bound, restricted in some areas but we have found freedom in God. Our tragedy is not contemplation, not the labels the society placed in us. However, our tragedy is that we are all sinners, no one in this world is free from sin. Everyone has sinned and fell short of God’s grace and in need of God’s help.
The prisoners are resilient in that they found God in their tragedy and found their freedom in the Spirit. They are reformed in the way they see the world and how they as group can relate to the world with God’s love and forgiveness for the labels they had received.
The uniform they wear every day is coloured red and blue. To the world it may be sign of contempt and labelling to the lowest point, which would be their tragedy. But their resilience and the red colour of the outfit signifies the blood of Jesus that can wash away all the human sins.
The blue part of the uniform signifies God’s universal love. The love that broke boundaries and unified the prisoners to him. We are reminded that it was one of the prisoners who asked God to think of him, and the responses was fantastic: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
This statement is not only true for the prisoners but also for the society to find the direction to address some of the many issues facing us daily as humans.
• The author is an inmate at the Bomana Prison and chairman of the peace and reconciliation committee comprising senior prison staff and prisoners.