PNG joins prayer and solidarity for Ukraine

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands held a press conference yesterday, pledging aid to the archdiocese of Lviv. For Fr Licini, refugees already in the country should not be forgotten.

Port Moresby (AsiaNews) – Archbishop Douglas Young of Mount Hagen spoke at yesterday’s press conference by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands

“The Catholic faithful of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands joins the Holy Father Pope Francis in expressing our solidarity with the people of Ukraine during this time,” he said.

The prelate explained that calls for peace do not imply that Ukraine cannot or should not defend itself but should be seen instead as pleas to Russia to put an end to its bombing of a free and independent nation.

Giorgio Licini, PIME missionary and secretary general of the Bishops' Conference, added his voice, expressing concern for the situation in Ukraine and solidarity with Ukrainian refugees, towards whom the local Caritas has allocated 20,000 Papuan kina (US$ 5,700).

The request for help came through Caritas Internationalis from Poland, which is currently hosting thousands of refugees. In recent days, civilians and foreign journalists have been targeted by Russian military actions.

“Homes, schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure have been hit by military attacks across Ukraine,” said Mavis Tito, director of Caritas in Papua New Guinea. “Large scale evacuations are still taking place; however, they remain extremely dangerous with scores of buses having to be turned back over the course of the last few days”.

The Bishops' Conference pledged another 50,000 kinas (US$ 14,250) to the archdiocese of Lviv in Ukraine. However, Fr Licini stressed the need not to forget refugees already in the country, because they fled other conflicts, including West Papuans who escape from what was once called Irian Jaya, before Indonesia seized it in the 1960s.

For years, Papua New Guinea has also hosted asylum seekers refused by Australia, held in inhumane conditions on Manus Island.

With reference to the current conflict in Ukraine, Fr Licini said that “the problem is not with the Western influence over Ukraine but with Russia and its political interests”.

“People rightly want freedom of speech and association, free press, free elections, freedom of movement; rights that are still grossly curtailed in Russia and, therefore, make that country much less attractive than Europe and the West. It was already the case at the time of the USSR.”

In this regard, Archbishop Young also made an appeal for democracy in Papua New Guinea which will hold an election next June.

In the “PNG, we need to also reflect on what happens when we lose our democracy. If you give too much power to one person,” he explained. “Let us learn from what is happening there and promise ourselves that the same does not happen in our country. Our votes are very important in choosing the right type of leaders”, he added.