Anglican clergy in the Diocese of Port Moresby have been discussing the rise of violence in PNG society and the harm it is causing to individuals, families and communities.
The starting point for our reflection was Genesis 1.27: “So God created human beings, making them like himself. He created them male and female”. The fundamental point is the equal value to God of male and female. This means that the basic call to everyone is to respect the God-given life of each other. No respect is shown in rape and murder, by violence towards women, by cruel treatment of children or by victimization of vulnerable people. The call to respect each other means that we must all say “no to violence” in all its forms.
Exodus 20.13 is even more specific: “Do not commit murder”. Clearly it is wrong to take someone’s life and all murders must be condemned whatever reason is given for them. With this in mind the repeal of the Sorcery Act would be the right way forward. A wrong solution, however, would be to implement capital punishment. Punishment must be given, but for the State to take someone’s life is no answer to the taking of life by a criminal. How can a peaceful society be built on more violence by the State? How can young people be taught that killing is wrong if the State kills? Capital punishment represents a defeat for a Christian nation and will not encourage respect for the sanctity of life. Let’s be consistent and say “no to violence” in all its forms.
Jesus reflects on the commandment not to murder in Matthew 5.21-22. Jesus is not just concerned with killing but with the danger of out of control anger in our relationships that leads to violence. So if we say “no to violence” we must be prepared to say “yes to peace making and reconciliation” built on mutual respect between men and women, parents and children, young and old.
Public protest has a place, so we support the national Haus Krai this week and pray for wisdom for our MPs and other leaders, but the real challenge of saying “no to violence” is to each person within every family and community. The call is to change our hearts and minds, and to grow in respect for each other - for the unborn child, the victim of violence, those living with HIV AIDS, the very young and very old, the close relative and the unknown stranger are all made in the image of God and so deserve our respect and protection. In the end each individual makes a choice: Say no to violence and death; say yes to respect and life!
Bishop Peter Ramsden
Anglican Diocese of Port Moresby