An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
OUR Lady Queen of Peace, Haisi Catholic Mission, is located on the south-western tip of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
In 1962, an American Marist priest from Boston USA, Fr Roger Borgea, established the mission - only the second Catholic mission in the Siwai District of South Bougainville.
Along with the establishment of the mission came a community school, now known as Haisi Primary School.
The catchment of the community school in the 1960s were the neighbouring Murua and Sininnai areas. It was a boarding school until Murua and Sininnai detached and established their own schools.
The establishment of Murua and Sininnai schools was due to the increase in population and the need for basic service delivery to keep up with the development trend back then.
However, Murua and Sininnai remained as the sub-parishes of Haisi Catholic Parish.
In 1989, 27 years after the establishment of Haisi Catholic Mission, the Bougainville Crisis dawned to claim an estimated 20,000 lives and leaving traumatised generations on the island.
The Bougainville Crisis can be seen as more of an historical and mysterious war. It started from opposition to the operation of the giant Panguna copper mine.
The discovery of the copper deposits in the 1960s led to the establishment of the mine by Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA). Production started in 1972, 10 years after Haisi Catholic Mission was established.
The mine was under the management of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) with the Papua New Guinea government as a 20% shareholder. The Panguna open cut mine was at that time the largest in the world.
The mine’s operation made it possible for a road link to be established from South Bougainville to Central through the mining township of Panguna. This was one of the many developments of that time.
In 1972, my lovely Mom and her siblings lost their dad. Now this is history which is retold to the younger generation of the family.
1989 is a significant year to me as it was the year I was born to my Mom and Dad. Specifically on the day the PNG government declared a state of emergency on the island of Bougainville.
So I was born in the dawn of the 10 year civil war on the island. My childhood years were blurry with nightmares of gunfire and fear of dark days. I never really understood the lifestyle we were living. Many unanswered questions flashed through my tiny brain about the way we were living.
Around May 1994, we went into hiding from the Haisi Catholic Mission’s care centre. As a five-year old girl, I walked the long nights from bush camp to bush camp, hiding from the PNGDF and the Resistance since we were under the control of the BRA (Bougainville Revolutionary Army).
Came 15 August 1994, and we were back at the Haisi care centre, this time under the control of the PNGDF.
In the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church 15 August is the Feast of Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven. Despite the situation around them, the Catholics in Haisi gathered to celebrate the occasion with Holy Mass at the Mission.
Before nightfall, there was a shoot-out between the BRA and PNGDF at very close range in the Mission grounds.
Our Lady Queen of Peace, who stands with a welcoming heart, got a bullet through her heart from the gunfire of a PNGDF soldier. She did not fall down and a mysterious thing happened at that moment. A cloudy fog came between the two groups of soldiers that blocked them from seeing each other.
So Our Lady Queen of Peace stood with her wounded heart to greet everyone who entered the grounds of Haisi Catholic Mission.
There are many untold stories about suffering and survival in the Bougainville Crisis. These untold stories of crisis survivors hold a great deal of treasure for Bougainville generations yet to come.
For me to be a crisis child, walking the long journeys of the dark nights and waking to the grumbling thunder-like sounds of gigantic man-made grasshoppers was all a nightmare. Why we were always moving tinkled in my little mind.
Seeing my Mom so sick but still having to care for us was so painful. It was like a wound.
As the Our Lady Queen of Peace, there are so many untold stories and unhealed wounds amongst the survivors of the Bougainville crisis.
To write those stories is a great task for the history of Bougainville.
Write to heal.