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