Cleanliness means washing often, keeping your body clean, and wearing clean clothes. It is putting into your body and your mind only the things that keep you healthy. It is staying free from harmful drugs. It is cleaning up mistakes and making a fresh start.
EARLY BAHÁ’ÍS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
The first New Guinean accepted the Bahá’í Faith in 1956. He was Apelis Mazakmat, a teacher and respected community leader from New Ireland Province. When first told about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith he said,
“This is what my people need; something to unite them.”
Rodney Hancock and Apelis Mazakmat, 1956
In the 1950’s the Bahá’í Faith was spreading rapidly to new countries throughout the world. In the Pacific many new Bahá’í communities were established at that time. The first Bahá’í to settle in New Guinea was a young nurse from Australia, Violet Hoehnke, who began her service at the government hospital in Lorengau in the Admiralty Islands (now Manus Province) in 1954. Soon afterwards another young Bahá’í from New Zealand, Rodney Hancock, also moved to Rabaul. Both became citizens of Papua New Guinea and continued to serve the people of this country for many decades, through their professions and in their voluntary work for the development of the Bahá’í community in Papua New Guinea. After 50 years in Papua New Guinea, Violet Hoehnke passed away in 2004 and was buried in Port Moresby.
Violet Hoehnke with PNG Minister of Information, John Momis, 1994
The first Local Spiritual Assembly in Papua New Guinea was elected in Madina Village, New Ireland Province on 21st April 1958.
A few years later another well known community leader from the Gulf Province, Tom Kabu, became the first Papuan to declare his belief in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. He served as Chairman of the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Port Moresby in 1966.
Many people from all parts of the country learned about the Bahá’í Faith while in the cities and then went to their home areas to share the teachings with others. Within a few years the number of local Bahá’í communities had increased so much that the first National Spiritual Assembly of Papua New Guinea was elected in 1969. Initially the National Office was located in Lae, but in 1994 it was relocated to Waigani, NCD.
The Bahá’ís of Papua New Guinea are part of their Papua New Guinean family as well as the world family. They are well-wishers of and active participants in the affairs of their own country as well as the whole world. Representatives of Bahá’í communities in Papua New Guinea have attended several international Bahá’í conferences and events through the years, such as the International Conventions; the 2nd Bahá’í World Congress in New York in 1992; the official opening of the terraced gardens surrounding the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel in 2001; and United Nations Conferences in various parts of the world. Several youth from Papua New Guinea have also had the privilege to serve at the Bahá’í World Centre in Israel for periods from one to five years.
Since its beginning in Papua New Guinea in 1954, Bahá’í communities have been established in every province of the country. Papua New Guinea currently has the largest Bahá’í community in the Pacific, with some 230 Local Spiritual Assemblies elected each year in towns and villages throughout the country (2007). Bahá’í prayers and Holy Writings have been translated into more than 60 languages of Papua New Guinea, including larger publications in Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu.
Governor-General Sir Paulius Matane and Lady Kaludia
at celebration of 50th year of Bahá'í Faith in PNG - Port Moresby, 2004
SOME OUTSTANDING BAHÁ’ÍS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Today Bahá’ís serve their country in all walks of life and many have achieved outstanding recognition in their secondary and tertiary studies as well as in their professions and in service to the community.
Mrs. Elti Kunak, one of the first Bahá’ís in Papua New Guinea, was awarded the Medal of the British Empire (MBE) on the Queen’s Birthday in 1975 for her work in women’s affairs in New Ireland Province. Reflecting on the early days of the Bahá’í Faith in Madina village in New Ireland she said,
“The first time I heard anyone say that white and black people were all the same was when I heard about Bahá’í teachings. Then I knew these teachings were good. I also never heard the Bahá’ís say anything against other religions. We believe that all the religions came from the same source and they are all doing work for one God.
Bahá’ís live in every country of the world. They are trying to help in the work of the United Nations, and they work to help the government where they live too. They do this because they believe that unity between people is the answer to all our problems.
I see so many things in the Bahá’í Faith which are the same as the traditional spiritual ways of my people, the Nalik people. I also see that the Bahá’í Faith has many things that are similar to the Christian Faith. We believe in one God. We are following His Holy Word. We also believe that all people have a soul. This soul of a human will pass on to an after-life when we die. From the time before Europeans came to our land, we have always been people who follow one God. The Bahá’í teachings carry us one more step ahead into today’s world and connect us to other nations.”
Bahá’ís regard their work or profession as a way to worship God through their acts of service for humanity. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Mrs. Elti Kunak’s daughter, Mrs. Margaret Elias, was awarded the Medal of the British Empire in 2002 for her many years in the public service, particularly as Secretary of the National Department of Labour.
In recognition of services to medicine and the community, Dr. Sirus Naraqi was honoured in 1999 as a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). The late Professor Sirus Naraqi first came with his family to Papua New Guinea in 1977 and served with distinction as a professor in the medical faculty of the University of PNG, training many medical specialists for Papua New Guinea. For more than 17 years he also cared for many patients at Port Moresby General Hospital, including Prime Ministers, Governors-General, cabinet ministers and many other prominent leaders.
Dr. Sirus Naraqi receiving the CBE from the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Sir Silas Atopare - Port Moresby, 1999