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Repentance Day: How then shall we live?


WITH TOMORROW being Papua New Guinea’s first National Repentance Day, let’s take some time on PNG Attitude to reflect on its significance.

During the term of the last government our then acting prime minister, Sam Abal, and the National Executive Council were convinced that such a commemoration was pivotal to national change. I could not agree more.

And so, tomorrow, Friday 26 August, is National Repentance Day for Papua New Guinea.

My humble question is: do Papua New Guineans understand the meaning of repentance? And therefore do we understand the significance of this day?

Perhaps its earliest usage of repentance in the English language (at least in the Bible) was when it appeared in the King James Bible exactly 400 years ago.

It is an expression especially familiar with the Christian faith. “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

Christians proclaim to this lost world, echoing the Lord Jesus and his announcer John the Baptist. I’m not sure if we really know what we are saying. Non-Christians or the irreligious would probably baulk at this concept; concluding confidently that it does not apply to them.

Christians would embrace it ecstatically; believing its high time the whole nation repents or at least appreciates its eternal importance.

In chasing the definition of repentance, the most obvious meaning jumps out: change of mind. The English word repentance comes from the Greek word matenoeo which simply means “change of mind”. It can also refer to “change of conduct” and “change of consciousness”.

Change of mind means changing beliefs and perceptions on a certain subject. If not believing something in the past, repentance means now believing it. In the Christian context, repentance means believing in the Lord Jesus, having previously not believed and turning away from sin. If I did not think a certain way before, I would now embrace that way of thinking.

In the Christian context repentance is associated with sin. True repentance is supposed to mean no longer allowing sin to reign in us. In the ordinary non-religious context repentance generally relates to changing the way we think.

On both notes I think PNG is well overdue for repentance. Never before has changing of the mind been so vital to national progress than it is today. We cannot continue in our way of thinking if we are to see real long-lasting change in our nation.

This is something that Patriots PNG has been campaigning for (changing of mindset) since its inception and which the church has been pushing for since coming to PNG (repentance from sin and faith in God).

Steve Biko, in the movie Cry Freedom, says it clearly: "Change the way people think, and things will never be the same." Change in thinking is supposed to naturally show in the conduct.

I do not know exactly what stifles our progress as a nation. But I have a clue that it has a lot to do with our mindsets: individually and collectively.

We need to change our mind. Only then will we see changes in our lives and in our country. Repentance usually means change “for the better”. If we do not show signs of becoming better people, better citizens and better leaders after National Repentance Day, then we have missed the mark in commemorating a day dedicated to repentance and our mindsets would not have changed.

One thing for sure in both the religious and irreligious context: true repentance must be preceded by an understanding of that which you must change your mind about.

If I used to think that spitting betelnut all over the streets was OK (or if I do not think it is wrong) before changing my mind about it, I would have to first be convinced in my mind that it is indeed wrong. Otherwise there would be no basis on which I would then “change my mind” and stop such a habit.

So if there has to be any real repenting, any real minded-change, there will have to be some real hard-hitting revelation (I tried to find a less-religious word but this is most appropriate) of the defects in our current way of thinking and conduct. The kind of revelation would cause us to swallow our pride and humbly accept that we need to change.

That part of the process (revealing our defective ways of thinking) has to be intensified in PNG. The people need to appreciate what need to be repented of. We need to appreciate what’s wrong with our current mindset, our current beliefs and our conduct before any successful effort can be made to improve or change.

Every person who understands the wrongness of a belief or conduct must make it their duty to inform others so as to help them change their thinking and conduct. And the church must not slack of in speaking out against sin and what is morally wrong.

Every individual has a duty to reflect on their current beliefs and perceptions, attitudes and conduct. Please do not assume that repentance is an exercise only for the religious.

We all have things that we can and should change. Some honest self-reflection will reveal a lot. We all can do with some change of mind...some repentance...

As a Facebook user posted so profoundly “no person or country can change until they face the hard ugly truth about themselves”. True. For only then will you be compelled to truly repent. Reflection precedes repentance

God Bless Papua New Guinea and Heavenise Day!


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Barbara Short

I hope that the people of PNG who participated in Repentance Day now feel stronger in their fight for good living, honesty, truth and transparency in government.

I feel they are very fortunate to be living in a democratic country. Recently many countries have been fighting to rid themselves of dictators.

The Sydney Morning Herald this morning records all the trouble in Fiji under a military dictatorship.

The Methodist Church has been banned for three years in a row about its annual conference.

After Bainimarama took power in a coup in December 2006, and ousted the democratically elected prime minister Laisenia Qarase, the constitution has been suspended, opponents arrested and beaten and media freedom restricted.

Secret US embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks confirm that violence and intimidation have been at the heart of the Bainimarama military rule.

There have been numerous human rights abuses such as arbitrary detention of human rights activists, senior police and civil servants, trade unionists, lawyers and journalists.

Soldiers attempted to force the 80-year old former head of the Methodist Church, the Rev Josateki Koroi, to attend a meeting at the Queen Victoria Barracks but he refused saying...."shoot me and you carry my dead body to the camp to show to the commander".

I hope and pray that PNG will continue to do everything it can to make democracy work and not fall into the trap of allowing a dictator to take over.

Harry Topham

Maybe they should rename the new public holiday "Sori De".

That way all those miscreants who caused the present dilemmas in PNG could get up and make apologies for their past sins and omissions and then outline what they intend doing to repair the damage they caused in the first place.

Rather this than the believed anticipation that such repentances through prayer would thus prevent the gods extracting vengeance emanating from possible lightning bolts descending from the heavens.

Michael Dom

I'd like to share this poem with readers of PNG Attitude.

Chitto jetha bhayashunyo
‘Where the mind is without fear’

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Nobel Prize for Literature 1913


The entire nation needed a day upon which to reflect? I thought that happened on Independence Day.

Is this just another outrageous excuse for laziness? I don't think I've ever heard anything more ludicrous than a day set aside for national repentance.

Maraia [No Longer Gullible]

I will think about repenting when I hear our politicians in public repent on their sins, which are far more abundant than mine.

I expect to hear Hon Peter O'Neill repent for the NPF scandal some years back. If he doesn't, then I know this entire exercise is another Peter O'Neill scam.

Christine Atua

Thank you Ganjiki. This is my message for today.

I am a Papua New Guinean and I am this nation so I have to change my way of thinking before change can happen in this nation.

I like how you put it as 'reflection precedes repentance', that's very true.

I will do exactly that because I don't want to remain the way I used to be, I want to make a personal change forever.

Thank you, I am encouraged.


I like your thinking, Ganjiki. There's a lot of bad karma going on in PNG.

As Lord Buddha said: 'The mind is the key to changing the nature of experience'.

We can all do, and be, better.

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