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Promoting Values

There are many Melanesian values that are both traditional and important for today:

  • We value participation in decision-making and in work; we value dialogue and consensus as a means of arriving at decisions.
  • We value our belief in the reality of the world of spirit, our stories of origin and the life wisdom of the group. We value our sense of wonder, our ability to gain wisdom, to sit still and contemplate.
  • We value our relationship with the land and our ability to both cultivate and guard our environment.
  • We values self-reliance, hard work, the sense of achievement and self worth that comes from such work and the equal sharing in the fruits of our labor.
  • We value respect for people and their property, modesty in word and action and special respect for the elderly and their wisdom.
  • We value our ability to challenge and face challenges in life, especially suffering and hardship.
  • We value the participation of the whole community in teaching, correcting and initiating the young into the life of the community.
  • We value our sense of joy and gratitude and our ability to express this in feasting, dance and artistic creativity.
  • We value the ties of kinship, exchange and language that give us our deep sense of community.

Catechesis today needs to reclaim these traditional Melanesian values and make them the very soil in which the Good News can grow and produce more abundant fruit.

One of the key Melanesian values is COMMUNITY. Community comes before personal preferences. To care for the community is the way to find eventual happiness and well-being.

Our Melanesian community is made up by a web of relationships. In fact these relationships build up the community. Relationships involve rights and responsibilities, expectations and obligations. Proper relationships mean a healthy community in which all the members can enjoy life. If relationships are strained or broken then the community is ‘sick’ and individuals experience loss of ‘life’ through strife, sickness, misfortune or even death.

To mend, establish or strengthen relationships exchange needs to take place through giving and receiving of visible, tangible gifts. In fact relationships can be established and mended only through exchange. Gratitude is also shown both in words and in actions. In Melanesia we do thank you more than we say ‘thank you’.

The sum of everything positive a Melanesian desires and the absence of everything a Melanesian rejects is the ‘good life’ (gutpela sindaun), which includes security, health, wealth, growth, prestige and good relationships. The values of community, relationships and exchange are ways to reach the ultimate value of life, which is the focus of all the community’s activity.

In this light the Melanesian ethical principle that directs our actions seems to be: What helps the community is ethically good, what harms the community is ethically wrong and what is indifferent to the community has no ethical value. This ethic was useful in a world of smaller isolated and sometimes hostile communities. It does not work in building a modern nation or a Church ‘alive in Christ’. The challenge of the Good News of Jesus is to expand our idea of community – Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10: 25-37, The Good Samaritan) and to grow into that perfect love which Jesus revealed: your love must have no boundaries, just as your Father’s love has no boundaries (Math. 5: 43-48; Luke 6: 27-36).