On the Contribution of Sport
Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG/SI
On the Contribution of Sport
With the Pacific Games coming soon to Papua New Guinea, sport will be a topic of interest for many people. At this time your Bishops wish to offer a reflection on the value of sport and ways that we can all benefit.
The Church recognises sport to be one of the great institutions of our society that helps individuals realise their human potential and builds up the bonds of the community, fostering comunal initiative and responsibility.
Sport contributes to physical and mental health and wellbeing. It teaches people, particularly young people skills and resilience. When youth become involved in sport, they devote their energies to teaming together in a healthy environment, forgetting about antisocial activities such as violence and crime.
Sport brings people together in new ways. Parents and teachers volunteer their time to organise events. Women maybe spectators in many public events, but with sport in the village, in games such as volleyball and basketball, they play equally along with males. Sporting contests often provide special facilities for disabled athletes – a consideration that could well be matched in other spheres of life.
Sport opens us up to the wider world. Many of us eagerly watch the “State of Origin” being played in Australia. Back home, how many of us feel proud when one of our athletes wins a medal in international events such as the Commonwealth Games. Athletes such as DikaToua or Stephen Kari have become household symbols of our achievementin the eyes of the world.
When interactions offer fun, competition, skill and goal-setting, there is a fertile environment for personal development. Sport builds character. It teaches us discipline as we learn to play by the rules. When sports teams promote fairness, firmness and moral courage, there exists a wonderful space in which to help young people grow into adulthood: a form of initiation where the “elders” (coaches or teachers) set goals and boundaries in asafe, caring and no-nonsense setting. In such settings the benefits flow not just to the local community,but to the nation as a whole.
But there is also another side to sport that can bring sadness rather than delight. We should keep in mind that special events come and go but normal life goes on. It is important to keep a balance between the value of sport and sporting events and other goals of society. Some countries have been so keen to project a good image on the international stage that their people have been left suffering and paying bills for years afterwards. Let us make sure this does not happened to PNG
Sometimes there is violence on the field or among spectators. On occasion there is gambling and betting and associated abuse of drugs and alcohol. We must guard against such antisocial activities that ruin the good name of sport. Also we are saddened to see some sports events scheduled on Sunday mornings, which are a time that most Christians devote to Sunday worship. We ask that sports managers try to keep the Lord’s Day holy, having in mind the words of St Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:25) “Every athlete concentrates completely on training in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever.”
+Bishop Arnold Orowae
President of the Catholic Bishops Conference PNG/SI
23rd April 2015