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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Papua New Guineans Apologize for their Ancestors' Killing of Four Missionaries

Is it just me or does this make you angry too?
The descendants of cannibals in Papua New Guinea, who killed and ate four Fijian missionaries in 1878, have said sorry for their forefathers' actions.

They held a ceremony of reconciliation, attended by thousands, in the East New Britain province where the four died.

The missionaries were part of a group of Methodist ministers and teachers who arrived in 1875 to spread Christianity.

Their murder three years later, by the Tolai tribespeople on the Gazelle Peninsula, sparked angry reprisals.

The head of the mission, English pastor George Brown, avenged the killings by taking part in an expedition that resulted in the deaths of a number of tribespeople and the torching of several villages.

Ten commandments

Candles were lit in remembrance of the four killed missionaries as thousands attended the ceremony in East New Britain.

Fiji's High Commissioner in PNG, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, accepted the apologies on behalf of the descendants.

"We at this juncture are deeply touched and wish you the greatest joy of forgiveness as we finally end this record disagreement," he said.

PNG's Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane praised the early missionaries for making the country Christian - and called for more people to follow its guiding principles.

"I wish many people could follow the 10 commandments, but they still steal today and commit adultery," he said.

"There is a big increase in HIV/Aids cases in the country because of adultery, despite knowing its wrong."


I wonder if the church ever apologized for what it did to the peoples of Papua New Guinea? For one thing, missionaries were heavily involved in the colonization of the island, helping to open up the island to Europeans. From the US Department of State: "Traditional Christian churches proselytized on the island in the nineteenth century. Colonial governments initially assigned different missions to different geographic areas."

Papua New Guinea has been passed around from colonial ruler to colonial ruler, broken up, stitched together, broken up again. Informal racial segregation was the norm until recently. It still has some of the most intact indigenous cultures left in the world, and one of the lowest rates of urbanization. The vast majority of the population depends on subsistence agriculture; they live off the land.

Unfortunately, the exploitation of the people and the resources of the island continue. Mining and mineral production make up a huge portion of the economy, but this is devastating the land and the indigenous peoples who depend on it. A good old Canadian company, Barrick Gold, is just one of those pursuing destructive gold mining.

Oh, and about HIV/AIDS... From Human Rights Watch:
Public shaming of sex workers as 'AIDS carriers' prevents people from seeking HIV-related services for fear of being stigmatized. Police continue to harass persons possessing condoms, including by forcing individuals to chew and swallow condoms and their plastic wrappers. Such responses deter condom use and undermine desperately needed HIV/AIDS prevention work by NGOs and the government.


And a group of indigenous Papua New Guineans is made to apologize for killing 4 missionaries over a hundred years ago? People, this is a prime example of the internalization of colonialism through humiliation and shame.

Interesting how those with power rarely apologize for horrible past actions and yet those without do.

5 comments:

Dr.Dawg said...

And meanwhile Fiji does a roaring trade in cannibal forks.

Larry Gambone said...

Too bad it was only four of them! If anyone should apologize it is the missionaries with their cultural genocide. Furthermore, these self-righeous creeps are still at it corrupting the few remaining "primitives." There should be a UN resolution banning missionaries from these areas

dirk said...

Wow the whole idea of the apology is just to weird
anyway good post

Dark Daughta said...

"And a group of indigenous Papua New Guineans is made to apologize for killing 4 missionaries over a hundred years ago? People, this is a prime example of the internalization of colonialism through humiliation and shame.

Interesting how those with power rarely apologize for horrible past actions and yet those without do."

Yeah, it's about being grounded enough and brave enough to know when you've fucked up. People who committed the kinds of horrific acts associated with colonization weren't that sort and their legacy remains with us today in a general culture of denial and lack of accountability that poisons families, communities, even groups doing resistance work, accountability is hard to come by. sigh...

Red Jenny said...

Oddly (well, I guess not so oddly actually), the violence and suffering of the colonized is so easily erased. Like here in Canada where the new thing is to make it appear as though we are partners with the aboriginals instead of colonizers. And it is true that the colonized aren't passive but are participants in creating history, but the falseness comes from the assumption that somehow the aboriginal people had the same aims as the Europeans.

In Canada there is a genuine attempt to include Aboriginal history, in the museums and other cultural institutions, but there's this false sense of a seamless transition between the before and the after of colonization. Like: the Bay of Fundy was an important fishing site, for the Mi'kmaq and now for Canadian commercial fishing fleets. Makes you wonder... what happened in between? Somehow the details of that transition are blurry in our official history... the history that is designed not for truth and posterity but to foster patriotism.