Kimbe priests challenged by Social Teachings of the Church
By Fr Phil Gibbs SVD
In the first week of October priests of the Kimbe Diocese together with Bishop Bill Fey, OFM participated in a workshop on the Social Teaching of the Church, led by Fr. Philip Gibbs SVD. They discussed some of the key ideas of Catholic Social Teaching, such as: Human dignity, respect for human life, the person in society (association), participation, preference for the poor and vulnerable, solidarity, subsidiarity, stewardship, human equality, and the common good, and noted how these principles from Catholic Social Teaching are closely related to the values in the Preamble to the Papua New Guinea Constitution. Catholic Social Teaching recognises that action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world are a very important part of the preaching of the Gospel.
The participants watched two films: one – “Bikpela Bagarap” about logging in the Sundaun Province, and another - “There Once was an Island” about the effects of climate change and rising sea levels on the Mortlock Islands near Bougainville. They noted the effects of indiscriminate logging in parts of West New Britain, questioned the legal basis of lease-leaseback schemes by companies from overseas that clear forest and establish large oil palm plantations, and noted with concern how some people on low-lying islands, may have to migrate to the mainland. If so, where will they go? Another issue now near Kimbe is that people on oil palm blocks that provided a living for one family two decades ago, are now having to provide for the needs of an extended family of three generations. The dependents increase but the land area on the block does not.
In Catholic Social Teaching there is a growing sense of intergenerational responsibility. The land and sea is given to us in trust, to hand on to our children in a better state than when it came into our hands. Often this is not the case in Papua New Guinea. Those in power to influence decisions ought not to be moved just by motives of immediate economic or political benefits, but also to consider the well being of future generations. The priests of the diocese will be taking this message out to their parishes. They will also be sharing “Social Concerns Notes” that come out monthly from the Commission of Social Concerns of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG/SI – found at http://tokstret.com