In what is believed to be a first for Papua New Guinea Union Mission (PNGUM), the Silva Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church has opened a family violence shelter on its property in June Valley.
The refuge will provide temporary accommodation for those affected by family or sexual violence, as well as being a hub for awareness and education, church leaders said.
The safe house has been made possible through the partnership of the local Adventist church with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG), as well as Avondale College of Higher Education.
“The Silva Memorial church is proud to be the first in the PNGUM to have such a facility … and we are so grateful to ADRA PNG, ADRA Australia, and Avondale for the opportunity to be part of this great movement to help our community address issues relating to family and sexual violence,” said Silva Memorial church elder Harry Aurere. “The church needs to become part and parcel of that movement to prevent such things from happening in our communities and families.”
The significance of the occasion was underlined by the attendance of special guests, including PNG’s secretary for community development and religion, Anna Solomon, Economic Counsellor at the Australian High Commission Papua New Guinea Ed Wilkinson, ADRA Australia CEO Paul Rubessa, and South Pacific Division (SPD) church region president Glenn Townend.
“It's great to get to be here today and see the hope and the optimism,” Wilkinson said. “It's a fantastic project, especially as a community-driven effort to try and address this really serious problem. This is where it needs to begin, not just in terms of directly addressing the needs of women affected by family and sexual violence, but in terms of addressing the critical education part of it — of changing the beliefs and perceptions of men and Papua New Guinean society.”
Brad Watson, a senior lecturer from Avondale, who has been studying the problem of family violence, presented a check to the project on behalf of Avondale Memorial Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia.
Both church and government representatives expressed the hope that the June Valley safe house will provide a model for other church groups in the country to lead the way in addressing family and sexual violence throughout Papua New Guinea.
With hundreds of church and community members in attendance, the building was dedicated and prayed over before Townend cut the ribbon, declaring it officially open.