Anglican missionaries arrived in New Guinea in 1891 with the backing of the Anglican Church in Australia. This followed Australian involvement in the administration of the south-east region of New Guinea.
In 1941 the Anglican Church in Papua New Guinea celebrated its jubilee. The war had so far had little impact on the area, and co-operation between all the missions, including German Lutherans in the north-east continued unabated. Southward moves by the Japanese brought the war to Papua New Guinea in January 1942. Most Europeans were evacuated to Australia, but both the Roman Catholic bishop, Alain de Boismeau, and the Anglican bishop, Philip Strong, encouraged their staffs to remain. Bishop Strong, expressing the general feeling amongst the staff, said in a broadcast:
We would never hold up our faces again, if, for our own safety, we all forsook him and fled when the shadows of the passion began to gather round him in his spiritual body, the church in Papua.
Most missionaries remained at their posts, avoiding the invading Japanese as best they could. A number survived the war.
In all, 272 Christians died during the Second World War in Papua New Guinea: 189 Roman Catholics, 20 Lutherans, 26 Methodists, 2 Seventh Day Adventists, 23 members of the Salvation Army, and 12 Anglicans. The Anglicans are commemorated in many parts of the Anglican Communion on 2 September. They died in various incidents: May Hayman, a nurse, and Mavis Parkinson, a teacher, were executed at Ururu; Henry Matthews, a priest, and Leslie Gariadi, a Papuan teacher and evangelist, were killed at sea; John Barge and Bernard Moore, priests, died in New Britain.
The largest group of martyrs was a group beheaded on the beach at Buna. This group included an English priest, Vivian Redlich, who had been on sick leave at Dogura when the Japanese invasion began. He insisted on returning to his base at Sangara. Although the Japanese were coming to destroy the mission station, he celebrated a final Sunday eucharist with his people before moving off into the jungle. He and others were eventually captured and executed. They included Margery Brenchley, a nurse; Lilla Lashmar, a teacher; John Duffil, a builder; Henry Holland, a priest; and Lucian Tapiedi, a Papuan teacher.
The decision of the missionaries to stay was criticised in some circles, but after the war it was the missions whose staff remained who were welcomed back by the people of Papua New Guinea.
For further reading:
Errol Hodge, The Seed of the Church, Sydney, Australian Board of Missions, 1992.
When the Second World War came to Papua New Guinea, the Anglican bishop, Philip Strong, expressing the general feeling amongst the mission staff, urged missionaries to stay with their people. Most of them from all the church missions did. Some survived the war, but 272 Christians died. These included 12 Anglicans, who are especially commemorated by the Anglican Church today. They died in various incidents in Papua New Guinea, the largest group being beheaded on the beach at Buna.
When I am afraid O God most high, I will put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3
we thank you for the martyrs of Papua New Guinea,
who remained faithful in their ministry
in danger and even to death;
may their witness strengthen your church today
in service and courage,
and in the power of the Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Suppliant at Gesthemane, Christ of the martyrs,
we praise you for the missionaries of Papua New Guinea,
who came to serve their people
and stayed when they might have escaped;
may we too be willing, should you ask,
to drink your cup.