Saovana-Spriggs, R, 2000. ‘Christianity and women in Bougainville’, Development Bulletin, no.
51, pp. 58-60.
Christianity and women in Bougainville
Ruth Saovana-Spriggs, Technical Team, Bougainville People’s Congress
In this paper two Bougainville women share their experiences during the war on their
island from 1989–98, and tell how their Christian faith gave them the strength and
courage to initiate the successful peace process. My personal concern is that
Bougainville women should henceforth participate meaningfully in the decision-making
level of government, as they have always done at community level (in churches, village
meetings, women’s meetings), where their authority rests and where they have always
had significant influence on decisions.
During the past two hundred years, Christianity has taken deep root in the lives of Pacific
Islanders and it is now an inseparable part of people’s existence. In Bougainville
Christianity has become a cultural way of life for the vast majority of people. The ten
years of civil war/independence struggle between the Papua New Guinea (PNG)
Security Forces/local militia and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) became a
major turning point to God for most Bougainvilleans. During the conflict an estimated 18-
20,000 lives were lost, both in direct military confrontations and through the lack of
medical supplies after the PNG government withdrew all services from the island in
1990. The government later reestablished a system of military occupation in areas not
dominated by the BRA. People were herded into refugee camps (‘care centres’), where
human rights abuses, intimidation, harassment, rape and killings were frequent, and
where movement was strictly controlled, eventually by a pass system.
In the political vacuum of 1990-94, when there was virtually no civil government, the
often traumatised people committed themselves strongly to their various churches. The
churches have long offered succour and services, but