03/02/2014 05:43

Statement from Archbishop Douglas Young, Head of the Catholic Education and Health Agencies for the Archdiocese of Mount Hagen (Western Highlands and Jiwaka Provinces

The health and education services provided by the Catholic Church in Western Highlands and Jiwaka Provinces are facing an unprecedented level of interference from traditional landowners who threaten obstruction of access to these services unless they are paid large amounts of money from the State. These groups feel that theirconcerns are not being listened to by Lands Departmentauthorities and the only way for them to attract attention is to disrupt the provision of services, with consequent threats to the safety of those who who have a right to make use of these services.

Landowners of the Andapang Karerem tribe in Jiwaka threaten to block access to all services in Fatima: the Primary, Secondary, and TVET Schools, Good ShepherdSeminary, Callan Services for the Disabled, the health clinic, and also the church. They estimate the value of what the church is providing in Fatima at K13 million and believe the State should “compensate” them for this amount.

The Archbishop of Mount Hagen, Douglas Young, expressed regret that these long standing matters have not yet been resolved. Theseservices, and those who need them, appear to be caught in a struggle between the high expectations of the landowners and the incapacity of the State to deal with the burgeoning compensation industry.

He reaffirmed the desire of the Archdiocese to honor its side of the originalcovenant made with the landowners who gifted theirland to the church. “We want to continue to do our best to preach the gospel through our religious, educational, and healthactivities.   If it becomesunsafe to do so in an environment of threat and intimidation by a minoritygroupthat the majority is unable to control,then these serviceswill have to be closed until suchtime as the threat is removed.”

While understanding the frustration of landowners who spend large amounts of money in pursuit of an elusive dream, he regrets that innocent students, mothers and children, are being used as bargaining chips in a dispute that does not concern them.

Authorized by

Douglas W. Young

Archbishop of Mount Hagen