New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, was on of the main frontiers of Christian mission in the twentieth century because of the difficult terrain and the cultural diversity of its peoples, who speak some 500 distinct languages. Christian missionaries first began work there in the 1860s and 1870s, with only limited success. The Anglican mission began in 1891, and the first bishop was consecrated in 1898. Today the vast majority of Papuans describe themselves as Christians, a little over three percent of whom are Anglicans. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and members of the United Church make up a majority of Christians on the island. There is a great deal of ecumenical cooperation among the Churches, particularly in the areas of health and education. Most of the rural health work, and nearly all of the training of nurses and community health workers, is carried out by the Churches.
During the Second World War, the suffering of missionaries and of native people was severe. This feast day, observed in the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea and in some dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia, marks the witness of eight missionaries and two Papuan martyrs, who were betrayed by non-Christians to the Japanese invaders. The day also includes remembrance of the faith and devotion of Papuan Christians of all Churches, who risked their own lives to care for the wounded and to save the lives of many who otherwise would have perished.
adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980)
Almighty God, we remember before you this day the blessed martyrs of New Guinea, who, following the example of their Savior, laid down their lives for their friends; and we pray that we who honor their memory may imitate their loyalty and faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of the Martyrs of New Guinea are published on the Lectionary Page website.