A Gospel of Gender Equality for Papua New Guinea
I spent the last week in Papua New Guinea – not something I ever expected to do! With over 800 languages, communication in PNG is fascinating. There is no internet and even phones are hard to come by, a few cell phones are here and there. Most people I met promised to write me – as in a letter. We will see how that goes.
I went to PNG as an invited guest to a Lutheran women’s conference. Colonized by Germans, more than one-fifth of the country is Lutheran. One of the key features of the conference was a bible study called “Jesus Liberates women in PNG from male dominated cultures”.
Growing up, Pastor Michael, a seminary professor, watched his mother suffer in a polygamous marriage. His father, a “bigman” would force ably take the pigs she raised so that he could enjoy a high status in the community, beating her if necessary. When menstruating, women were (and still are in some places) secluded, and some believe that even the food they touch is contaminated so they are no allowed to cook meals. After the age of 13, Michael was discouraged from spending time with his mother. Because of a tradition called the “Bride price” -similar to a dowry- women cannot divorce their husbands because their family is expected to pay the money back. By paying for their wives, it encourages a culture where many men consider their wives a possession. Even though she was often beaten by her husband, his sister was unable to divorce him because of the culture and eventually committed suicide.