Church leaders visit Bougainville to see how they can help prevent conflict

Date: Thursday, September 27, 2018

Author: Nicholas Turner

Buka, Papua New Gulnea — After a four-day trip there, Papua New Guinea’s church leaders now have better understanding of how they help keep the peace when the Autonomous Region of Bougainville holds a landmark referendum next year.

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, John Momis, sixth from right, poses with members of the PNG Council of Churches on 24 August in Buka. They discussed how the churches can help keep Bougainville’s upcoming referendum violence-free. Photo: UN Women/June Su
The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, John Momis, sixth from right, poses with members of the PNG Council of Churches on 24 August in Buka. They discussed how the churches can help keep Bougainville’s upcoming referendum violence-free. Photo: UN Women/June Su

With UN Women’s assistance, representatives of the PNG Council of Churches and government, civil society and research organizations made the fact-finding mission to Buka from 20 to 23 August.

The delegation held dialogues with the Autonomous Region’s President John Momis and members of the Bougainville Executive Council; Deputy Chief Secretary for Policy and Planning Thomas Raivet; departmental heads of Community Government and Community Development; and development partners and civil society organizations working in the Autonomous Region.

The Council of Churches is now preparing a plan of activities to support the referendum. It also is creating a network of church leaders, in both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, to discuss shared experiences and, enhance their peacebuilding activities in Bougainville and the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Churches played a vital role in providing services to victims of the Bougainville conflict, and various denominations are working on the current peacebuilding process, which will include a referendum to decide the region’s future political status. Church leaders also want to help lessen conflicts among tribes in the Highlands.

Members of the fact-finding mission included Reverend Jeffrey Moduwa, President of the Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea. He said that it was vital to recognize that women can play a crucial role in preventing conflict during the referendum.

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

Susan Ferguson, Country Representative of UN Women, said that she hoped this would be the first of many such meetings.

"The link between churches, peacebuilding, gender equality and women’s empowerment is a vital one,” she said. “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 [Papua New Guinea].”

The mission was supported by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund and the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative. The Initiative focuses on empowering disenfranchised groups in Bougainville -- mainly women, youths and people with disabilities; it is being implemented by UN Women, United Nations Population Fund and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

For further information:

Please contact Nicholas Turner, Communications Specialist (Buka)
Tel: +675 7003 9252 | Email: nicholas.turner@undp.org