Church leaders return from fact-finding mission

Church leaders from across PNG have returned from a fact-finding mission to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville with a better understanding of their role in contributing to a peaceful and violence-free referendum in 2019.

Organised with thanks to support from UN Women, the mission saw participants comprised of representatives from the PNG Council of Churches (PNGCC), government, civil society and research organisations visit Buka from 20-23 August.

A series of open dialogues were held throughout the mission with President Momis and members of the Bougainville Executive Council, Deputy Chief Secretary for Policy and Planning with the Autonomous Bougainville Government Thomas Raivet, departmental heads from Community Government and Community Development, and with development partners and civil society organisations working in the Autonomous Region.

The PNGCC now hopes to better understand, and in turn map out, the link between peace building and the churches throughout Bougainville; prepare an action plan for support towards the upcoming referendum and; create a series of ‘learning networks’, which will allow for the PNGCC to further support credible peace building efforts across Bougainville and the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Churches played a vital role in the provision of services during the Bougainville conflict and in recognising these past contributions, and assessing current needs, it remains evident that the various religious denominations have a role to play in the wider peace building space.

Participants were particularly encouraged to see that women are being recognised for their positive contributions to furthering peace and unity across Bougainville, with a genuine space being made for them within government and the wider decision-making sphere.

Reverend Jeffrey Moduwa, President of the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea, said recognising the crucial role that women can play in peace building, conflict prevention and the referendum in Bougainville will be vital moving forward.

“Women are playing a positive and proactive role here, no doubt. However, they are challenged by a lack of resources, geography and logistics issues and their role should be formally recognised,” Reverend Moduwa said.

Susan Ferguson, Country Representative with UN Women, said she hopes this is the first of many such meetings moving forward.

“The link between churches, peace building, gender equality and women’s empowerment is a vital one. We hope that the mission to Bougainville not only provided a better understanding of Bougainville in general, but also provided an opportunity for church leaders to learn from successful peace and security initiatives that can be replicated throughout other parts of PNG.”

This mission was staged with thanks to support from the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative. The initiative focuses on the empowerment of disenfranchised groups in Bougainville, mainly women and youth, and persons with disabilities, and is being implemented by UN Women, the United Nations Population Fund and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

(Filepic of Bougainville)

Press release