Southern Cross

‘Makai Ike’: the Simbu prayertainment that’s killing family life

Group of men in KundiawaKELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing

MAKAI Ike or Haus Makai is a hut where the Catholic faithful, especially Simbu villagers, congregate to pray at night.

Almost every clan has a minimum of two Makai Ike and they invite clans from other tribes, and even their neighbours in the Western Highlands and Jiwaka, to occasionally come for prayer, a privilege which is reciprocated.

Most Haus Makai are not purpose-built but many families turn their homes into Haus Makai, often for ulterior reasons. Sadly, this practice has many darker sides to it, and it can inflict damage on the family units that take part.

First, like all Christians, the owners of the huts seek some sort of favour from the Creator - so the practice is more like a process of bargaining with the Lord than a genuine act of humility and penitence.

Most undertake the process as an appeal to the Lord to respond to an immediate need, such as the healing of a sick family member, financial help from an angel to pay tuition fees or for the successful completion of studies.

A second group of Christians turn their homes into Haus Makai because the intending candidates for national elections visit them to give out goodies such as pressure lamps, kerosene, guitars and of course lamb flaps.

Yes, it is a lazy way of diversifying livelihood and bringing some wealth into the family.

Sometimes the organiser of the Haus Makai’s hidden agenda wants to contest a council ward election or achieve some other local position and is trying to shroud a previous dark life by impressing on the faithfuls how he or she is a reformed and upright citizen.

Now that the traditional karim lek (courtship) entertainment in the evenings has vanished, people, as social beings, are looking for a proxy for courtship and Makai Ike prayer can take that place. The majority of the Papists that frequent it primarily go for the socialising rather than genuine devotion.

The people do not follow the clock, so those who go early to the Makai Ike will expound rhetoric about everything whilst waiting for the other folk to turn up. They will talk about politics, which of course is a delicacy.

Someone will say an intending candidate will come from the US or Australia and eject cartons of cash from helicopters and the cash will cloud the skies, blur their vision and the smell of new notes will suffocate their nostrils. There’s always plenty of this kind of nonsense.

By the time everybody is drowsy and the children sprawling in the dirt snoring, the attendees appoint people to partake in various acts of prayer. By the time they finish, the early hours of the next day will have arrived.

The first negative externality of the Makai Ike is that these parents do an injustice to their children. Apart from singing, the children do not actively participate in the gathering so it is a waste of time and sleep for them.

Some parents leave their kids at home to sleep and run off to the Makai Ike. Parents are supposed to practice basic Catholic life in the family unit. Kids need to see parents cooking, praying, serving the meal, washing up, doing a post mortem on the day’s work, then family prayer and bed time stories.

How can one build a decent Catholic family when children miss out on this important itinerary?

Parents leaving the home in the charge of the teenage boys and girls to look after their siblings is a bad call.

Once the parents depart, with the aid of mobile phones and age old instincts and in the sanctuary of the night, the teenage boys and girls visit each other and have a field day with the father-mother game.

The community will say “the mother is a maria eekopne, or leader of the blue army, but how come the daughter is pregnant or the son has contracted HIV or is a druggie?”

The other truth is that people pray till dawn or thereabouts and sleep during the day. That reduces productivity while thievery of garden produce and domesticated animals soars.

Morua, a leader of our outstation at Ulwal, was halfway through digging up two plots of peanuts from Kolkia’s garden in the early morning hours.

Kolkia spotted the act of attempted theft and came up behind Morua to greet him in the expected way.

Morua jumped and ran but Kolkia pursued him with a razor sharp bush knife.  Luckily Morua escaped and saved his neck but his clansmen had to compensate Kolkia.

Apai is a maria eekopne and does some healing with her prayers. She is hired by people from all over the place but none of her six children attend primary school. Her first daughter has gone off and become a second wife.

Apai has spent more than 15 years travelling around various Makai Ike. She takes a reference around written by a Catholic priest confirming that she can do miracles. Meanwhile her kids fend for themselves.  She is a good role model, ah?

Wai, the principal of Goramara Makai Ike, and Ba, a mother of five, travelled to Koge for a prayer with others. In the dark of the night, Wai and Ba were copulating under some coffee trees when her small son, who travelled with them, out of curiosity walked out and found the mother with her legs up.

He duly reported this to his father. Two clans were facing off for warfare as an aftermath.

A mother confessed on her dying bed that she had been sleeping around with a particular principal in the Makai Ike and named the places they frequented.  Upon her death, the husband dressed her corpse in full traditional regalia and buried her with utmost respect.

The Church unfortunately does not see what we ordinary Papists see happening in the Makai Ike. The Church is made to believe that the Catholic faith is alive through such gatherings.

What would Jesus say if he walked into Simbu?

My guess is that He would burn all the Makai Ike and tell people to return to the family unit for prayer and appear on Sundays for worship.

He would surely outlaw this prayertainment culture that inflates socio-economic ills.


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John Kaupa Kamasua

That's right countryman. People should worship in the daylight in spirit and truth.

I have never trusted those night gatherings, and calling on the name of the Most High on a mountain in the dark.

Young men and women do this, and what you hear or find out later is that some of them have become pregnant or are having relationships.

Some people never cease to both intrigue and amaze.

Casper Damien

The Makai Ike, was originally served its purpose for prayer and gathering for involvement of Church activity of the local people. But, for sometime it went off track, and people doing other immoral activity with suspicious.

And now it tends to be cargo-cult or cult activity now which needs immediate attention to be addressed by the Catholic Church in Kundiawa Diocese. It should stop.

People are wasting their time hanging around the Makai Ike "Haus". There are lots of reasons for popping-up of such activity. Good research on this issue will highlight what went wrong.

Michael Dom

What feels real for us is our reality no matter how intangible it may seem to another.

We create the bridges in our hearts and minds.

And we test them too.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

The priest and the common Papist live in two different worlds.

The priest hides in his western citadel and the common Papist lives in the Simbu world.

The two worlds meet on Sundays but have not synchronized due to different determinants and mediators.

Corney Korokan Alone

When advances, things, ideas and beliefs gets mixed with the rocky ...isms of Simbu, the results are quite stunning, mostly with a negative twist.

Whether it's Catholicism or Islam, the variants that comes out of these mixes from those rocky rivers and mountains are completely off the tangents with established doctrines.

Bomai D Witne

Kops, the issues you highlight are real among Catholic communities in PNG.

In my view, the priests are custodians of the gospel and would promote individual, family or community activity that promote the teachings and sharing of the gospel.

Makai Ike is a common place for teaching and sharing the gospel. It is now up to the laities to explore options of teaching and sharing the gospel with minimal or no socio-economic ills.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Good thoughts, Sil.
The illustration re what would Jesus do draws from the Bible record of His entry to the Temple and the driving out of the animal sellers and money changers.

They had obscured the design intent by God to include the gentiles in His redemptive plan as shown by the Temple architecture incorporating the "Court Of The Gentiles." a place which the religious hierarchy had allowed to become a convenient location to fleece the people rather than explain the truth of God's will.

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