Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Putting pearls before swine in Papua New Guinea

Last Sunday, Papua New Guinea saw yet another case of a non-government organisation, which tries so hard to bring hope and change lives of people in this country, falling victim to a senseless case of robbery which only brings more shame to the country.

It only leads us to ask ourselves what PNG is coming to when we steal from, rape and murder people who come in to help us, literally biting the hand that feeds us.

Pearls before swine refers to a quotation from Matthew 7:6 in the discourse on holiness, a section of Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, implying that things (such as pearls) should not be put in front of people (or in this case, swine) who do not appreciate their value.

Thieves broke into HOPEworldwide (PNG's) 3-Mile office in Port Moresby and stole medical equipment, computers and staff belongings, and trashed the office.  

HOPEworldwide (PNG) is a Christian non-government organisation founded in 1994, whose mission is to bring hope and change lives by providing medical, educational, and social services to underprivileged Papua New Guineans. 

Those who know HOPEworldwide (PNG) country director, Tessa Te Mata, will know that she has made huge personal sacrifices to help the disadvantaged in PNG, including a well-paid diplomatic job to head up a small NGO with very few resources but full of people with great hearts.

"What is PNG coming to when thieves rob those who try to help the most-helpless?" she asked angrily when surveying the wreckage at the office.

 This is the third security incident in less than a week for HOPEworldwide (PNG).

 Last week, two of HOPE's staff at the 9-Mile clinic were attacked by a member of the public.

 Patients fled in terror and staff were traumatised by the incident. 

Nine-Mile is one of the busiest clinics in Port Moresby.  

HOPE also operates a HIV/AIDs outreach and counselling clinic - Helvim Bilong Yumi Project - at Lawes Road clinic. 

Operations were temporarily suspended last week after the husband of one of the main clinic's staff was car jacked in the car park. 

"HOPEworldwide (PNG) is not a rich organisation" Te Mata said.

 "We survive on donations and grants from overseas and here in PNG. 

"We barely have enough each month to pay our staff. 

"Yet, every year, our staff have to endure robberies and attacks, sometimes at gun point. 

"Every year, thousands of people depend on HOPEworldwide (PNG) for medical treatment and awareness about HIV/AIDs, diabetes and TB; we sponsor hundreds of children who would not go to school otherwise; we help dozens of farmers earn a living; and we have put millions of library books into schools across the nation. 

"Stealing from us is stealing hope and help from people like this."  

Te Mata called on the public to remember the work of faith-based organisations, NGOs and volunteers who work tirelessly for little or no pay. 

 "There is poverty and hardship in PNG," she said.

 "But instead of robbing each other we need to help each other.   

 "NGOs are here to help communities. 

"But communities need to help us too: do not shelter the heartless cowards who did this and do not buy cheap medical equipment or computers off the street because that encourages them to keep stealing.

"One day it might be your child or your mother we can't help because of break-ins like this."

It seems that, in PNG, we are self-immolating because of such animalistic behaviour by the lowliest of beasts.

The HOPEworldwide incidents add to a growing list of murders, rapes and robberies of NGO staff, overseas volunteers and church workers.

In one of the most-notorious cases, which made headlines around the world, an Australian youth ambassador on a surfing break in Madang was raped last November.

The victim was with three other Australians who had travelled to Madang's North Coast Road looking for surfing spots.

The four were carjacked, robbed and then taken to a secluded spot where they were bound to trees and the female raped.

Last month, a spate of car-jackings in Port Moresby gave rise to a climate of fear among some Australian officials, so much so Australia's High Commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, met with police chiefs to discuss their concerns.

One of these incidents included a male aid adviser working in PNG's National AIDS Council Secretariat (NACS) who suffered "serious injuries" in an attack in January during a car-jacking that required him to be flown to Brisbane for treatment.

In Manus, a Japanese volunteer was stoned by drunken youths in 2009, and had to return to his country to undergo brain surgery.

In February 2009, a team of foreign Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) doctors and nurses who were offering their services free of charge in Tari, Southern Highlands province, were evacuated after two of them were attacked by a drunk.

The world-renowned U.S. Peace Corps ceased operations in Papua New Guinea in 2001 due to security concerns.

And the list goes on, and on, and on.

Very soon, PNG will be ostracised from the rest of the world, as they will not want to put their pearls before swine like us.

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