The ‘Rot’ out of the PNG crisis
“The forgiving attitude of Saint Maria Goretti challenges our payback practice and mentality”, Bishop Rochus Tatamai of Bereina said at a meeting of Catholic youth at Divine Word University in Madang over the weekend. The way the murder of the 12-year-old Italian came about in 1902 reflects very much current PNG social issues and problems. Maria Goretti in fact lived in poverty, was very religious but illiterate, suffered violence and death as a child by a person she knew very well and was a family friend.
The “saints’, however, Bishop Rochus said, know how to resist evil and forgive, as in the case of Maria Goretti. She was selected in 2006 as patroness of the Catholic youth of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands after a wide consultation because young and ‘meri’ (lady), trying to uphold the rights and dignity of the girl child.
The saints also challenge common social practices at odds with Christian values. It has been the case of Blessed Peter ToRot (1912 – ‘45), a Tolay catechist of East New Britain killed by Japanese occupation forces in August 1945. Bishop Rochus Tatamai is the grandson of Joseph Tatamai, an uncle of the martyr, and apparently an accomplice in the plot that led to the incarceration and the murder of the husband and father of three.
Peter ToRot continued to lead prayer meetings and administer the sacraments of baptism and marriage even when the Japanese prohibited all religious activities and promoted polygamy and sexual licentiousness, which Peter openly opposed until he was incarcerated and killed by lethal injection.
“We need models for today’s PNG. Here they are!”, Bishop Rochus said, “ Saint Maria Goretti and our own Tolay, Papua new Guinean and Melanesian Peter ToRot. He was called ToRot because he was born close the new big road (rot in tok pisin) built in East New Britain at the outset of colonization.”
“In fact he shows us the way to overcome the current national crisis: through the same care for the children and the family, honesty, dedication and courage”, Bishop Tatamai concluded his reflection in Madang.