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«By Michael Wan Rupulga A research paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Ministry [DMin] Subject: ...»

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Michael Wan Rupulga

A research paper

submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements

for the Degree of Doctor of Ministry [DMin]


Code: 3860

Supervisor: Dr. Gregory Lockwood

Australian Lutheran College

104 Jeffcott Street, North Adelaide

Trimester 1, 2006

Page 1 of 253




INTRODUCTION...…………………………………………………………….….……1....1 A. Background (context and problem)......5 B. Objective (purpose)......6 C. Methodology......... 13 D. Delimitations



.....15.. 16 A. A brief history and geography of Western Highlands A.1. A brief history.....16 A.2. Geography, economy and population 18....19 B. The culture and religion of the Western Highlands in brief B.1. Spirits of the ancestors.20 B.1.1. Spirits of the dead ancestors living with the living in the Community..21 B.1.2. Believing in the good and bad spirits...22 B.1.3. Confession of sins in the name of the ancestors...23 B.2. Supreme being (god) 24 B.3. Totems and totemism...25 B.4. Viewing things in pairs..27 B.5. Conclusion..28 C. The importance of communal life in the Western 30 Highlands C.1. Traditional communal life.30 Page 2 of 253 C.2. Modern communal life..33 C.3. Conclusion

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L. Conclusion……………………………………………………………….…103



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This thesis is the fruit of generous assistance I received from many people in special ways. They deserve to be acknowledged for their special services.

Firstly, my sincere gratitude goes to my supervisor, Rev. Dr. Gregory John Lockwood. He has been a great supervisor, offering helpful comments, advice and direction in the process of revising all the drafts. He has helped me to explore new insights which have broadened my knowledge of the topic, resulting in a quality thesis. I will always treasure his superb supervision.

Secondly, I would like to make special mention of two lecturers who have been my supervisors in my Doctor of Ministry seminars leading up to the writing of the thesis. Thanks to Rev. Dr. Malcolm Bartsch, who supervised Seminar One research on “The Challenges to Ministry from the Changes in the Papua New Guinean Society and Culture.” Also, special thanks to Rev. Dr. Andrew Pfeiffer, who supervised Seminar Two work on “What does it mean to be a Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea?” I really had a good time working with these supervisors. All the three supervisors mentioned above are unique and gifted in their own fields of specialization. I learnt a lot from them.

Thirdly, appreciation is due to all the lecturers and staff of Australian Lutheran College (ALC) who have assisted me in their teaching, spiritual guidance,

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Fourthly, thanks to my sponsors: The Board for Missions: Lutheran Church of Australia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – the Division of

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Fifthly, from the depths of my heart, I thank all the faithful individual Christians, families (within ALC and outside), congregations and parishes of the Lutheran Church of Australia (ALC) who have supported my family in spiritual guidance, prayers and material support during my three and half a years of studies and

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Lastly, thanks to all the congregation and parishes of the LCA who have invited me on many occasions to preach and give talks. This has helped me learn a lot about the positives and negatives of the LCA. This will greatly enhance my future ministry within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea.

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Communal life is an indispensable part of life in the Western Highlands (WH) communities. Every individual is a part of a community. Everyone must take part in the activities of the community. It is a disgrace for one member to stay out of the activities of the community. Whatever happens (good or bad) in the community affects everyone. They mourn together and celebrate together, happy together and sad together. It becomes a problem when the whole community (including the Christians) takes part in doing bad (something destructive).

Wantok system is another problem that stems from communal life. Members of the same community, clan or tribe are loved and cared for and they do not seem to have anything to do with people who are not members of their community.

Anyone who is not a member of the community is seen as a foreigner, an outcast, and an enemy. It contradicts the Christian principle of loving one’s neighbor. It (wantok system) also causes nepotism in government departments, companies and private sectors. Also, the changes of modernization clashes with the traditional WH communal life settings. These challenge the Christians to choose between the traditional communal life or embrace modernization, or cling on to both. Which one of the two is more Christian (loving and caring) that he

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What can the church do about these issues? How can the church help individual Christians to live according to the Gospel in a communal life setting

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the Western Highlands communal life as an attempt to help the Western Highlanders to live their Christian lives (living according to the Gospel) in their respective local communities.

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Christian koinonia in the New Testament. Secondly it analyses the good and bad aspects of Western Highlands communal. Thirdly the paper highlights main issues on Christ and culture, especially Lutheran response to culture in Papua New Guinea. Fourthly basing on findings on chapters one to three, it (paper) evaluates the implications of koinonia for Western Highland communal life and its response to culture. By doing this (evaluation) the results of the over view on Christian koinonia are used to strengthen and enhance the positive aspects of WH communal life. The findings are also used to transform the negative aspects of WH communal life. The paper concludes by suggesting practical ways in which how the church could go about bringing the message of Christian koinonia to communities in WH as an attempt to help the people to live their Christian lives in their respective local communities.

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Our analysis of Western Highlands communal life begins with two important contextual matters; first, a brief history of Western Highlands (WH) will be provided; second, we will briefly consider the culture and religion of the WH.. Then our focus will turn to the importance of traditional and modern communal life in the WH and the workings of the “wantok system”; a term used to describe communal life in WH, and throughout PNG. Finally, our analysis will consider a number of important aspects of WH society where “communal life” is practiced by helping, caring, and sharing with one another, contributing and participating in community activities. The areas of communal life under consideration are: marriages as a community matter (traditional and modern marriages): funerals as a community matter (traditional and modern funerals); compensations as a community matter (traditional and modern compensations); economy as a community matter (traditional sharing and reciprocity; modern cash economy and its problems (buying and selling with money as a new concept challenging the traditional exchange practices); traditional and modern dances and feasts as community events of peace and unity; modern and traditional tribal fights and ethnic clashes in towns and cities as community issues; leadership as a community matter (traditional and modern ways of making a leader).

A. A brief history and geography of Western Highlands1 1 All the information on geography and brief history was taken from the internet website on PNG provided by the Post Courier, a daily newspaper company in PNG. See also Stuart Inder Ed., PNG Handbook and Travel Guide. (Sydney: Pacific Publications, 1978), 7-28;

Darrel L. Whiteman Ed., An Introduction to Melanesian Cultures. (Goroka: Melanesian Institute, 1984), 85-92.

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Western Highlands (WH) is one of the 21 provinces of the independent state of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Little is known about the pre-history of WH and PNG as a whole. However, modern scientific studies have shown that Western Highlanders, including other Papua New Guineans, were in New Guinea at least by 8,000 B.C. Some anthropologists think the first migrations from South East Asia via Indonesia to New Guinea occurred about 50,000 years ago. There is also speculation about waves of migration from north east of New Guinea when sea levels were considerably lower than they are today and New Guinea and Australia were joined. The eastern half of New Guinea was first visited by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century, but a permanent European presence was not established until 1884, when Germany made the Northern Coast its protectorate and Britain took similar action in the South. Both nations formally annexed their protectorates and in 1906, Britain transferred its rights to a newly independent Australia. Australian troops invaded German New Guinea in World War I and retained control under a League of Nations mandate.PNG wasinvaded by Japanese forces in 1942. After it was liberated by the Australians in 1945, it became a United Nations trusteeship, administered by Australia. Australia granted limited home-rule in 1951.

Autonomy in internal affairs came nine years later. In December 1972, PNG became self-governing and it achieved complete independence from Australia on the 16th. of September, 1975 and became a member of the Commonwealth.

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government expedition explored the area between Benabena and Mt. Hagen.

The Acting Administrator, T. Griffiths, encouraged the Lutheran Mission to move into the area to take up its work of teaching and preaching. The Lutheran Mission accepted the challenge. “The first step was taken when Wilhelm Bergmann received orders from Stephan Lehner on October 12, 1933, to carry out a reconnaissance flight with two missionaries from Madang over the unexplored interior as far as Mount Hagen.”2 In 1934, the first Lutheran Missionaries Wilhelm Bergmann, Foege, Schoettler and Dr Braun arrived in Mount Hagen and were stationed at Ogelbeng.3 In November 21, 1934, the Ogelbeng Mission station was first built by Bergmann and some evangelists.4 A.2. Geography, economy and population WH is located in the center of the New Guinea highlands. It is surrounded by the following highland provinces: Chimbu to the east, Enga to the west, Southern Highlands to the south and to the north is the coastal province of Madang. The famous and fertile Wahgi valley lies at the center of the WH. It represents about 2 Kurt-Dietrich Mrossko, “Missionary advance to the Highlands,” in The Lutheran Church in

PNG: The first one hundred years. Edited by Herwig Wagner & Hermann Reiner. (Adelaide:

Lutheran Publishing House, 1986), 195.

3 Mary R. Messis, Hagen Saga: The Story of Father William Ross, Pioneer American Missionary to Papua New Guinea. Boroko (Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, 1982),

53. See alos Mrossko, 195.

4 Mrossko, 197.

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making WH one of the most densely populated provinces. About 98% of the people are Melanesians. The other 2% is made up of other races.

Around 85% of the people are subsistence farmers. They depend on cash crops like coffee and tea to make money, as well as using some crops for their own consumption. Only 15% are employed in towns and cities and receive

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Western Highlands is a fascinating province with more than five different languages and cultural groups. The main languages are: Pidgin spoken by most people, Melpa, Kagul, Jiwaka, Enga, and Baiyer. English is spoken by 1-2% of the population. More than 30% of the population is illiterate. Over 37% of the population is below the poverty line. In religion, Roman Catholics make up approximately 30%, Lutherans 20%, other Christian churches 45%, and

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B. The culture and religion of the WH in brief It is important to stress that culture and religion cannot be separated. Religion is closely associated with culture. No people in the world, whether ancient or

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making brief mention of WH religious practices. Some aspects of WH culture will be examined later in this thesis, especially marriages, funerals, compensations, economy, ceremonies, tribal fights and leadership. Therefore we will not spend time looking at them here. However, it is helpful to give a brief account of the religious practices and beliefs of the WH people.

The type of religion found in the WH (including the rest of PNG and Melanesia) is ‘primal’ or ‘traditional’ religion.6 The word ‘religion’ used in this section refers to beliefs, values and the rituals of the WH people. In most primal religions there are basically six features: “1) Kinship with nature; 2) Human weakness; 3)Man is not alone; 4) Relations with transcendent powers; 5) Man’s after-life; 6) The physical as sacramental of the spiritual.”7 These aspects of primal religion will not be covered in any detail in this brief introduction to WH religious practices and beliefs. In the primal religion of the WH there were two groups, or gods, the people believed in and worshiped: the spirits of the ancestors, and a supreme being (supernatural god).

In traditional WH societies, before the missionaries came and even during the time when the missionaries were there, some locals still believed and made sacrifices to the spirits of the ancestors and a supreme supernatural being.

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