By Giada Aquilino
There is a close bond between the missionaries of Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), and Papua New Guinea. That faraway land in the Pacific Ocean in fact, was their first destination in 1852, with an expedition of seven people. The presence of the missionaries there came to an end in 1855, after the martyrdom of Blessed Giovanni Mazzucconi, to be resumed in 1981. Today there are 12 PIME missionaries in the country who have been joined by 28 Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. After having carried out various development projects over the years, it is to Papua New Guinea that PIME has chosen to dedicate the 2021 Country Fund, a collection of donations that in the 2019 and 2020 campaigns had been destined to Amazonia and China.
Guided by Laudato sì
The reflection that guided them stems from the Pope's encyclical Laudato si' which, in 2015, took a snapshot of the Planet, denouncing spiralling exploitation and poverty. Furthermore, today, almost six years later, new "frontiers" of exploitation of natural resources have opened up in certain countries and regions, including in Papua New Guinea, as illustrated by Giorgio Bernardelli, PIME’s Director of Communications.
Land rich in resources at risk of depletion from exploitation
The environmental balance of the Pacific country has suffered "a serious degradation in the last decade due to pollution and poor governance of the territory," Bernadelli told Vatican News. It is one of the places, he said, where "our global economy most easily finds an abundance of the raw materials we need": gold, silver, copper, minerals in general. "Papua New Guinea is a very rich land from this point of view and it is a land where there are also new frontiers of this exploitation. One of the most serious problems today, he explained, is that of sand mining. There are entire areas of the Papua New Guinea coast that risk being eroded precisely because of the exploitation of this material for export. “And there are also projects for seabed mining, i.e. for the exploitation of resources under the sea, on the seabed".
A fund for Papua New Guinea
Thanks to the 'S142 - Sister Papua New Guinea' Fund, the PIME missionaries aim to promote eco-sustainable development projects and activities in the local missions, such as the supply of electricity and water using instruments with a low environmental impact.