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Yuri peace building activities focus on mobilising youth

YAKA is on trackBOMAI D WITNE

AT the heart of all the activities of the Yuri Alaiku Kuikane Association (YAKA) are the 4Rs - reunion, reconciliation, rebuilding and restoration,

YAKA – established to bring the Yuri people of Simbu peace and development – has quietly celebrated many achievements over the last three years.

Cultured Yuri people understand that these achievements are the seeds of a continuously peaceful society. It is their gift to ensuing generations.

Unfortunately, there are uncultured people who don’t understand and appreciate YAKA’s achievements.

In these three years, there has been renewed tribal unity. It can happen over beer, shared cigarettes, chatting on Facebook, email, cultural events, youth camps or just walking and talking along the bush tracks of home amongst the never ending gorges and mountain ridges.

These are some of the manifestations of tribal unity and celebration.

YAKA appreciates every bit of support accorded to it by the families, individuals and organisations that believe and share its dreams. This generous support provides the basis for YAKA’s forward movement.

In the last week of December and on the first day of January each year, YAKA members come together to celebrate.

The Yuri people are scattered all over Papua New Guinea, looking for a better life just like other Papua New Guineans. A few work and live in other countries.

They are hard-working people, who contribute tirelessly to nation building: some at tribal level, others at government level and others using the churches as a vehicle to unite the tribe and expose it to development challenges.

In the hearts of the founding fathers of Yuri, they knew that one day the sons and daughters would use their knowledge, skills, talents and wealth to unite for the common good of the Yuri people.

YAKA gave rise to this ancient dream three years ago.

The Yuri people experienced eons of disunity and animosity between their warring clans. The destruction to lives and property after continual tribal warfare is well understood. It was a major factor forcing people to look for better lives.

Since 2013, YAKA developed, nourished and inspired Yuri people to learn from their past mistakes and create change for future generations.  YAKA views youth as important tribal citizens who link the past, present and future. Thus, YAKA gave birth to the Tribal Youth Camp.

Like their parents, modern day Yuri youth spread from the tribal hamlets to urban streets, ghettoes, schools, churches, universities and elsewhere. A true diaspora.

Some are productive and contribute positively to their communities. Others joined the queues of aimless youth, contributing only to PNG’s law and order problems. 

YAKA decided to bring them together for two weeks each year so they can get to know each other, share knowledge and experiences and inspire one another.

Adult Yuri people and friends of Yuri in different walks of life and people with good community standing are invited to give talks and encourage and inspire youth with positive thinking. Last December, was the second year of tribal youth mobilisation.

The Catholic Bishop of Kundiawa, Reverend Anton Bal spoke to the youths about drug and alcohol abuse - a common issue among youth in rural and urban communities.

The challenge was for affected communities to develop strategies to deal with these scourges - uncontrollable in many communities.

What community members, leaders and abusers didn’t know was that drugs and alcohol were destroying the values that hold families and communities together. Traditional and legal values that provided the fabric for strong families and communities were torn.

Community members were subject to attack by their own youths. Drug and alcohol abuse were tolerated not by lethargy but because of fear.

Youths must be educated that abuse of drugs and alcohol are not just anti-social behaviour but illegal under our laws. Bishop Bal encouraged youth at the meeting to keep away from drug and alcohol abuse. Indulging in this behaviour will only destroy themselves, families and communities.

The subject of politics and the election got people smiling and eager to join discussion. Steven William Gari Kaupa drew the attention of the people to the relationship between people and the government and private sectors.

People shook their heads in anger when they realised that the bridges and roads they were travelling on were built by government using their tax. The dismal bridges and absence of health centres made them irate.

Steven showed how candidates buy votes and voters sell their preferences - a case of mutual deception. It is highly unlikely that transparent and accountable leaders will emerge from such transactions during elections.

Agnes Kaupa, an educationist, discussed policy and Grade 10 and12 drop-outs each year. Yuri students are part of the tally of dropouts and do not know how to continue their education.

Agnes introduced students to distance learning, an area of education she works in, and this was new information for many students and out of school youth. They were curious and could not wait to ask Agnes for more information after the session.

Bomai Witne gave a talk on Vision 2050 (V2050) and what it meant for Yuri youth. He stressed that the government’s dream for young people was contained in this document. V2050 wants them to take stock of their current condition and adjust to become smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy citizens.

Young people can do this in many ways – through education, sports, business, community and church mobilisation programs.  The objectives and activities of YAKA are aligned to V2050. Hosting the annual tribal youth camp is a small initiative by YAKA to contribute to the bigger dreams of V2050.

Joe Kuman challenged the participants to define youth and its role in the community. Joe encouraged the youths to use their strength to play sport, study well, help family and members of the community, do gardening, build houses and do things that will give them a sense of positive contribution.

YAKA cannot thank Clement Bundo enough for travelling in the rain under difficult road conditions to give a talk on positive parenting. He spoke on the importance of the need for attachment, communication and confidence that must be provided by parents and caregivers to children from pregnancy to birth and three years old.

He stressed points in simple terms for the youth to follow and raise questions. Clement provided examples of traditional parenting common in Simbu Province.

In some Simbu societies, parents leave younger children in the care of older children. This was a case of children being forced by parents to look after other children which amounts to violation of children’s rights. They should not be doing adult people’s work.

The Yuri people realised that leaving younger children in the care of older children along the rivers Mon and Maril was exposing children to danger. The rivers could carry the babies away. The session was informative. The youths enjoyed it and suggested to invite Clement to make a similar presentation at the next camp.

The last day is normally reserved for a peace march and community awareness building by youth. They were encouraged to create songs that bind and promote unity. They sang and marched with placards and raise awareness to communities along the way to Iri-maule.

Two people died during the week and the youths participated in mourning on the last day. They rubbed themselves with mud, carried food and firewood and offered condolences to the family and relatives of the deceased.

A family member of the deceased accepted condolences on behalf of the family and thanked the youths for the gesture of unity. The visit by tribal youth to the haus krai was the first in Yuri history.

The youth later walked to Iri-maule and paid homage at the gravesite of Yuri’s ancestor Alai’mbia. The youth recalled all who had passed on including the late Chief Yosep Kuman and John Kaupa. They prayed and remembered them for toiling for the unity and wellbeing of the Yuri people.

The youth ended the day with an open forum where people of all ages and walks of life were invited to express their views about YAKA, its achievements, failures and personal contributions to promote its cause.

The speakers were encouraged to express their views on what constituted free, fair and safe elections and how the Yuri people should behave as candidates and voters in the 2017 election. People raced for the microphone. The facilitators had difficulty selecting speakers. Most people wanted to participate in this forum so it continued on the next day.

The forum was first for the Yuri people. The tribe had never united to publicly air views on issues affecting them, in particular on free, safe and fair elections. The people enjoyed it and praised YAKA for creating space for such an experience.

Youth watched movies and documentaries of the life of YAKA on the night of 31 December. Some parents helped to cook. They shared food and welcomed the 2017 at midnight. New Year in Yuri tribal territory was observed peacefully. There was no shouting, banging of drums or disturbance normally associated with such celebrations in other communities.

1 January was reserved for an inter-Christian churches service – it is an integral part of YAKA’s activities to thank God for the many blessings. YAKA prayed for renewed zeal, wisdom and knowledge in meeting the challenges of 2017.

The Catholic Bishop of Kundiawa, Anton Bal celebrated his 25th year of priesthood in 2016 and extended the joy of his celebration to the Yuri people.  Lutheran, Baptist and EBC pastors and the Yuri people cut and shared YAKA’s 4th anniversary cake.

The tribal youth mobilisation proved successful. The youths realised their own power and ability to influence each other and their own communities. They raised awareness and educated people against the use of illegal drugs, home brew, alcohol abuse, sorcery accusations, tribal warfare, stealing and other anti-social behaviour that endangers their own lives as well as that of others and the community.

The Yuri people spend much time and resources to facilitate this annual tribal youth gathering. The churches play an influential role. The village court magistrates, councillors and tribal leaders support the camp.

It was enlightening for the leaders and educated working class people to join hands and inspire youth. The next camp is planned for 26 December 2017 to 1 January 2018.

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