Catholic Brother speared in Port Moresby

A St John of God brother from the Xavier Institute, near Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby, was killed last week by a steel rod thrown through the window of his van as new revelations emerge on the fate of Christian missionaries in New Guinea during World War II.

Br Augustine Taiwa, in his 40s, was attacked near the Xavier Institute at Bomana, where he had been attached as co-ordinator for pastoral courses at the Institute for the past three years, Fides reports.

The Brother's requiem will be held this morning in Aitape after his body was released from Port Moresby on Saturday.

Br Augustine, who belongs to the St John of God Brothers based in Aitape and Wewak, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Port Moresby General Hospital, after he was rushed there by police.

Police Superintendent John Anawe said Br Taiwa was speared with a steel rod while he was driving a van between the Vanuatu junction and the Bomana seminary - along the road towards the Correctional Service Institution.

Mr Anawe said one attacker threw a rod at the vehicle and speared the driver in the head. He said the attacker and two others - all believed to be from Central Province - were known to police and were expected to be caught soon.

Assistant co-ordinator at the Institute Sr Mariah Koae said the attack on Br Taiwa had shocked the institution, which had condemned the attack. She said the attack was unexpected on Br Taiwa who was a man who had very close relationship with the locals in the area where he was attacked.

Sr Koae said Br Taiwa was returning from town when he was attacked. He lost control and he vehicle crashed into a tree. She said it was possible he was driving slowly with the left glass wound down, and so he was easily speared.

The hugely popular Br Taiwa had worked tirelessly counselling men on violence against women, according to a statement from the Australasian spokesman for the Order, Simon Feely.

The Brother was part of the Papua delegation for World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.

The fate of some "New Guinea martyrs"

The report of Br Taiwa's killing has coincided with the release of new information more than sixty years later about the fate of a group of missionaries known as the "New Guinea martyrs" who were thought to have been stabbed and beheaded by Japanese troops during World War II, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

It has emerged that some of the 13 men, women and children did not die directly at the hands of the Japanese, but were murdered by tribal people or died after being betrayed to the Japanese.

Stories about Australia's war in the Pacific rarely mention the deaths of some 400 missionaries, including at least 50 Catholic nuns. They are not listed among the war dead and, being civilians, are not honoured at Anzac Day ceremonies.

A memorial service at the weekend at St Luke's in the Sydney inner suburb of Enmore will focus on the 13 Anglican clergy, teachers, nurses and others, including a six-year-old child. Their misfortune was to have been based around the coastal villages of Gona and Buna, near the northern end of the Kokoda Trail, where the Japanese landed in July 1942. Their violent deaths caused shock waves at the time.

Anglican Fr Vivian Redlich, who had evaded capture by the Japanese for several weeks, became a Sunday school hero after a letter to his parents - headed "Somewhere in Papua" - was delivered after his death. It is framed in a "martyrs' corner" in St Paul's Cathedral, London.

However it has now emerged that the 27-year-old priest was killed not by the Japanese but by indigenous people among whom he had sought refuge. A clansman of the perpetrators is said to have owned up recently, identifying a gravesite thought to contain Fr Vivian's remains and his Holy Communion chalice.

This new information was passed to the retired archbishop of Papua New Guinea, David Hand, who attributed his own decision to become a missionary to Fr Vivian's example.

Local church members say that clan leaders had sought long ago to own up to the crime but feared that under "payback" law "the white men would have to kill us" so they waited until the last of the perpetrators had died.

Priest killed in clashes in Indonesia's Papua

Meanwhile, across the border in the Indonesian province of Papua, a Catholic priest was one of three people killed in intertribal fighting taking place near the giant US-based Freeport-McMoRan copper and gold mine.

The Australian reports that villagers from two different tribes began fighting with spears, arrows and traditional machetes early yesterday after a woman from the Damal tribe was killed by an arrow, allegedly fired by a neighbouring Dani tribesman, police said.

More than 100 riot police as well as another 120 ordinary police were attempting to enforce a ceasefire between the two warring groups in Kwamki Lama district, Timika, not far from the giant Freeport gold and copper mine, a police spokesman said.

"We have tried to separate them, using Brimob, now we have one company of Brimob, and four (standard) police units on standby there," Kartono Wangsadisastra told AFP.

Friday's fighting also wounded 24 others, many seriously. Police said they hoped to begin peace talks between the two tribes today.

Photo: St John of God Brothers, Aitape diocese

Catholic Brother murdered (Fides, 3/9/06)
Warring Papuan tribes separated (Australian, 2/9/06)
After a lifetime, the shocking truth (Sydney Morning Herald, 2/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St John of God Health Services
St John of God Brothers (National Vocations Directory)
Youth leave for world youth Day in Toronto (Diocese of Aitape)
Hospitaller order of St. John of God, Diocese of Aitape

Extra Indon police sent to Papua violence (4/9/06)

4 Sep 2006