Stories from the Global Church
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The Rev. Rodney Nordby and Nancy Anderson are ELCA missionaries in Lae, Papua New Guinea. To support Rodney and Nancy, or another of the ELCA’s nearly 250 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
Nov. 9, 2011
We write you at a time of civil unrest in Lae. News may be starting to come into the U.S., but we want you to know that we are safe even though there have been a lot of tensions. On Thursday a large group of people from Morobe (our province) marched to the provincial government offices with many complaints and got little satisfaction. Things escalated quickly and there was violence on Friday and a lock-down by the weekend.
There are many stories and rumors so it is difficult to discern what has truly happened, but houses have been burned, some people we know have been threatened, the little store near Ampo where our friends and neighbors shop has been looted, and there are long lines of people wanting to buy food once the shops open.
Our pastors here in Lae are providing leadership to bring the factions together and address the concerns, many of which are the legitimate issues of urbanization, manifested in unemployment, the emergence of settlements and the daily presence of hunger and poverty. That these issues and violence quickly turn into modern-day tribal fighting is troublesome. It is amazing how the biases emerge so swiftly and, if not thwarted, turn into protests. A state of emergency has not been called and there is some return to normal, but no one is resting easy yet.
On the previous Monday, Reformation Day, we had had a wonderful outdoor service. Due to the rain, it involved much preparation and work erecting a tarp to protect us from the weather. By the end of the week, the idyllic scene of the service seemed a distant memory.
The same area in which we held the service under big rain trees was the scene of young people running with rocks and knives through Ampo, the result of their protest being halted by the police at Butibam Bridge. The prayers points in our Reformation Day worship service foreshadowed what have been emerging concerns about security, street crime in Lae city and the lack of responsiveness of the provincial government.
We are safe. We stay connected with our Papua New Guinean colleagues and neighbors and our fellow missionaries. We try to resume our normal daily routines, knowing full well that a shift has taken place.
Blessings to you as you prepare for Thanksgiving and Advent. We will stay in touch.
Gob i blesim yupela olgeta,
Nancy and Rod
UPDATE as of Nov. 13:
The situation in Lae has settled down. Meetings between factions and the local government were successful; a community-wide solution was found to the many tensions. Nancy and Rod remain safe, and Rod has even traveled on some projects that were postponed due to the riots. The church was at the forefront of providing protection to those who felt threatened by violence, and ecouraging dialogue to ease the tensions.