Loving God's people in Papua New Guinea
MISSIO Scotland supports the training of priests, brothers and sisters throughout the world, so they can follow their calling. These men and women play an essential role in establishing a network of trust and love with local communities, which is particularly essential in many developing countries where sharing the Gospel and the Catholic Faith is scarce, such as in Papua New Guinea.
With more than a thousand tribes across PNG, conflicts over such things as land claims and religious differences continue to cause widespread grief. The Catholic Church and local priests play an important part in reducing the hostility and animosity between the tribes. As respected leaders of the community, the priests act as mediators and encourage harmony and reconciliation.
One priest from Papua New Guinea who has been supported by Missio Scotland is Elias Zambria who hails from the Mendi Diocese in the southern part of the country. Like many of his fellow priests who attended the Holy Spirit Seminary in Port Moresby, Elias has experienced tribal conflict first-hand in his home village. He knows the important role the Catholic Church plays in reducing tribal conflict throughout the country, as well as the crucial work of the Church in areas such as evangelisation and building schools and hospitals.
Elias first experienced his call to priesthood when he was just 16 years old. However, after finishing school, he started working as an auto-electrician, and slowly drifted away from his once strong faith. With the help and guidance of his grandmother, Elias returned to the Church and decided to follow his calling and he is now a priest.
In preparation for the priesthood, Elias and his fellow priests reached out to the people of Papua New Guinea while they were seminarians by offering not only spiritual support,
but also practical support. Every week, Elias helped the Canossian Sisters provide basic health care to people on the outskirts of Port Moresby who, because of their extreme poverty, are unable to afford the high fees in the city hospitals. Elias and his brothers were assigned to different areas and had different responsibilities, such as leading prayer, providing health education and medication, distributing nutritious food and weighing patients. Priority is given to children who are often sick with coughs, influenza, malaria, diarrhoea, headaches, fever or sores.
Elias really enjoyed the pastoral work; for him it was a unique opportunity to meet the people, help them and be with them.
“It prepared and equipped me with practical experiences to be an effective pastoral worker as a priest in the future universal Church of Christ,” he said. “It helped me to know how best to work with people who are poor and underprivileged by reaching out to them with the help of the Lord and showing His love and compassion.”
He thanks those who have helped him fulfil his calling saying: “Our Church is still young and your donations really helped us… when we receive donations we feel someone is responsible in terms of faith and existence… what you are contributing is some encouragement. I now have to reach out to the people and experience God’s love in the heart of the people to an even greater extent. Loving God is loving the people.”