28 August, 2019

This post was originally written for and published by the Adventist Record.

A crowd gathered for the opening of the PNG Safe House

A crowd gathered for the opening of the June Valley House of Care

In what is believed to be a first for Papua New Guinea Union Mission, the Silva Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church has opened a family violence shelter on their property in June Valley.

The refuge will provide temporary accommodation for those impacted by family or sexual violence, as well as being a hub for awareness and education.

The safe house has been made possible through the partnership of the local Adventist church with ADRA Australia and PNG, as well as Avondale College of Higher Education.

“The Silva Memorial Church is proud to be the first in the PNGUM to have such a facility . . . and we are so grateful to ADRA PNG, ADRA Australia and Avondale for the opportunity to be part of this great movement to help our community address issues relating to family and sexual violence,” said Harry Aurere, elder of Silva Memorial Church. “The church needs to become part and parcel of that movement to prevent such things from happening in our communities and in our families.”

A men's choir in PNG

A men’s choir performs a special item

The significance of the occasion was underlined by the attendance of special guests, including Anna Solomon, PNG’s secretary for community development and religion, Ed Wilkinson, Counsellor Economic at the Australian High Commission, Port Moresby, Paul Rubessa, ADRA Australia CEO, and Pastor Glenn Townend, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific.

“It’s great to get to be here today and see the hope and the optimism,” said Mr Wilkinson. “It’s a fantastic project, especially as a community-driven effort to try and address this really serious problem. This is where it needs to begin, not just in terms of directly addressing the needs of women affected by family and sexual violence, but in terms of addressing the critical education part of it—of changing the beliefs and perceptions of men and Papua New Guinean society.”

PNG secretary for community development and religion Anna Solomon speaks at the opening

PNG secretary for community development and religion Anna Solomon speaks at the opening

Dr Brad Watson, from Avondale, who has been studying the problem of family violence, presented a cheque to the project on behalf of Avondale Memorial Church, Cooranbong, NSW.

Both church and government representatives expressed the hope that the June Valley safe house will provide a model for other church groups in the country to lead the way in addressing family and sexual violence throughout Papua New Guinea.

With hundreds of church and community members in attendance, the building was dedicated and prayed over before Pastor Townend cut the ribbon, declaring it officially open.

Glenn Townend praying over opening of PNG Safe House

South Pacific Division president Pastor Glenn Townend offers a dedicatory prayer

Words: Jarrod Stackelroth