New Tribes Missionary Returns To Papua New Guinea Amid Deadly Violence

Monday, February 13, 2006

WEWAK,PAPUA NEW GUINEA (BosNewsLife)-- A staff member of the American mission group New Tribes Mission (NTM) has returned to his home in the dense jungles of Papua New Guinea to ease tensions following bloodshed in the region, missionaries said Friday, February 10.

Accompanied by three police men, missionary Jonathan Kopf reached the Hewas tribe village, which was rocked by "warfare" in recent weeks, following a murder, NTM said in an e-mail message to BosNewsLife.

"Jonathan's wife, Susan, was only a few feet away when the couple's dear friend, Tomas, was nearly decapitated during a court proceeding. Warfare that erupted immediately after the incident forced the Kopfs to evacuate," said NTM, which works in some of the world's most remote places.

Although no further deaths were reported angry relatives of Tomas "burned the homes of anyone who housed the murderer before he committed his crime, eight houses in all." The missionaries' homes were apparently untouched.


NTM said police and the missionaries have urged the tribe to resolved the murder through the judicial system instead of the traditional "pay back" killing, which they hope will set a precedent for the Asian-Pacific nation. "Like most Papua New Guinea cultures, when someone is killed the relatives of the victim avenge the death by killing a member of the killer's family," NTM explained.

"Fearing such retaliation, the murderer and his relatives escaped deep into the jungle," the group added. Kopf was quoted as saying that he could "see their fires on the distant mountains," but stressed that "the denseness of the jungle makes it very difficult for the police to pursue them."

The Kopfs plan to continue their work in the tribe and want to expand their ministry to other villages, NTM said. "Jonathan received a message that some of the people in Kulufundu and Waiyalima [villages] want to learn to read and write so they can read the Bible," NTM claimed.


Besides fighting, illness is also hampering the work of missionaries in Papua New Guinea. an era slightly larger than California. 11 Hewas recently died due to an illness sweeping their villages, NTM said. "The illness has apparently responded to medicines that Jonathan took to the people a few weeks ago. There have been no more deaths, and Jonathan's care has created an interest for God's Word among the people."

It said it had urged its supporters to "pray for a peaceful solution to the murder, and for the growth of the young Hewa believers." NTM is among the largest evangelical church-planting and Bible-translating agencies and has 3,200 workers in 18 countries in all continents. The organization is not everywhere welcome. On Sunday, February 12, a deadline will expire in Venezuela for NTM to relocate its staff from tribal areas, after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused them of spying for the CIA and "exploiting" Indians.

NTM, which has its headquarters in Sanford, Florida, has denied the accusations and say many tribes welcome their presence. (With reports from Papua New Guinea and Venezuela).

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