Dean Greg Jenks
Martyrs of Papua New Guinea
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
A statue of Lucian Tapiedi, an indigenous Papuan among the Anglican martyrs of New Guinea, is installed among the niches with other 20th-century Christian martyrs from the wider Church, over the west door of Westminster Abbey in London. The statue of Lucian Tapiedi stands second from right.
This Sunday (2 September) we commemorate the courage and the sacrifice of more than 300 indigenous and expat Christians who were killed by the Japanese military in PNG in 1942/43.
The following note is extracted, with some minor editorial modifications from The Martyrs Book published by ABM, the Anglican Board of Mission (Australia).
THE MARTYRS OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA | SEPTEMBER 2
The Anglican Church in Australia has set this day aside to remember the twelve Anglicans who died in Papua New Guinea in 1942/43, during the Japanese invasion and occupation of the country we now know as Papua New Guinea.
John Barge, priest Margery Brenchley, nurse John Duffill, builder Leslie Gariardi, evangelist and teacher May Hayman, nurse Henry Holland, priest Lilla Lashmar, teacher Henry Matthews, priest Bernard Moore, priest Mavis Parkinson, teacher Vivian Redlich, priest Lucian Tapiedi, evangelist and teacher
Were any of these people PNG Nationals?
Yes, both Lucien Tapiedi and Leslie Gariardi.
What did they have in common?
Each of them died because, as an individual, they chose to continue to serve the people entrusted to them by God rather than travel to safety when they had the opportunity. It is this act of personal self-denial in the face of imminent personal danger to their life that led inevitable to the death of each of them.
Why September 2?
This has been chosen as one day to commemorate 12 people who died on various dates in 1942 and 1943. In a number of cases the actual dates of their deaths are unclear. In 1996 the date was agreed to be used as a commemorative date for all 333 Christian martyrs of PNG in World War II.
Are these the only Christian Martyrs of PNG in the 1940s?
Far from it. Members of all the major churches were killed in the hostilities. It is difficult to know exact numbers. At different times the lists have varied but a total of 333 martyrs is estimated:
Anglican 12 Roman Catholic 197 Evangelical Church of Manus 5 Lutheran 16 United Church 77 Salvation Army 22 Seventh Day Adventist 4
Does the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea Observe this day?
Yes, indeed. It is one of the big days of celebration in many parishes. There is traditional dancing in the Eucharist and the kundu drums are played. At the Martyr’s Memorial School it is always a very important occasion.
Why does the Australian Church keep this day?
Papua New Guinea is Australia’s nearest neighbour, closer than New Zealand or Indonesia.
From 1896 to 1973 the Territory of Papua was an Australian dependant territory. From 1919 to 1973 the Protectorate of New Guinea was an Australian responsibility first under the Charter of the League of Nations and then under the United Nations. Today Australian governments always recognise that a special responsibility that we have for the nation of Papua New Guinea. This government responsibility is mirrored in the responsibility that the Anglican Church of Australia has for the Anglican Church of PNG which is taken up by the Anglican Board of Mission – Australia.
Many of the Anglican martyrs were missionaries of the Anglican Church in Australia.
What can we learn today from the lives and deaths of these people?
One answer to this is that they were ordinary Christian people, doing the tasks they believed God had called them to do. It is easy for us to find among them some particular person with whom we can identify and see that we are never too old, too young, too ordinary, too unskilled, to perform a part in the mission of God to bring his love and justice to this broken world.