Papua New Guinea is the largest and most populous country in Oceania. It also has one of the most rich and diverse ecosystems on earth and one of the most diverse human societies and cultures, with a total of some 830 different languages spoken. Most of its 5 million inhabitants follow Christianity today, and roughly half of these are Catholics – though Christianity was in many cases introduced only a few generations ago and is therefore sometimes not very deeply rooted in the culture.
At the same time many people in Papua New Guinea have found it difficult to adjust to the extremely rapid social developments associated with the modern information age, while the State in many regions seems unable to fulfil even its most basic duties. Many people have simply been unable to cope with the rapid changes, and the consequences have included a sense of social uprootedness, extensive crime, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and even child abuse. The Church is therefore focusing very much upon the family apostolate, since this is the only way to bring about an improvement.
In the diocese of Wabag, the work with families is likewise a major priority. Conditions are difficult, however. The diocese is poor and many of the priests also have to support themselves by growing their own food, in addition to carrying out their priestly duties. Most of the faithful live in remote and inaccessible mountain regions, and the parishes are vast, with numerous outstations, while the roads are often nearly impassable. In order to be able to reach as many of the Catholic faithful as possible, there are 13 diocesan committees which operate pastoral and social activities in the parishes, thereby covering almost every area of social life. At the same time they are also training up members of the laity, so that they in turn can carry on the same work independently later on. In all this work, the improvement of the practical living circumstances of the people goes hand in hand with the work to deepen and strengthen their faith. ACN is supporting this extensive pastoral outreach programme for a period of three years, and once again our contribution for this year is 30,000 Euros.