Living in harmony

Divine Word University (DWU) is a special place for students from different backgrounds to come together and study and engage in peace and harmony with each other as Jesus Christ the Divine Word has taught us.

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Madang Stephen Reichert OFM Cap delivered this message to the students and staff in his homily during the Eucharistic Celebration to mark the opening of the DWU academic year at the Madang campus on Friday 10th February, 2017.Abp Reichert encouraged the students to recognize their important roles and responsibilities as young men and women attending a Catholic/Christian university in a developing country with a myriad of challenges.

He called on the students to “be proud of your ethnic heritage and traditions, but leave ethnic rivalries outside the gate of this university (because) we are all children of God.”

What follows is the rest of Abp Reichert’s homily:

“I want to begin by welcoming staff and students to Divine Word University and to this Eucharistic celebration marking the beginning of the 2017 Academic Year.

For those of you who come from other provinces or outside the city, welcome to beautiful Madang, which lately, has become known as the “eye-sore in the Pacific” as described by the Post Courier in last Friday’s (3rd February, 2017) paper. Seems the newspaper is not impressed by the present condition of some of our streets.

However, DWU remains a beautiful campus, carefully tended and well-known as a safe, peaceful and pleasant environment in which to pursue one’s higher education.

Congratulations to all of you who have earned a place in this university.

If you use this opportunity well, you will gain great benefit from your time here.

The theme of the 2017 academic year is ‘Advancing quality collaborative e-learning accessible to all”. You will see this theme displayed on DWU documents here and there, on noticeboards on CCTV around the campus. It is an idea to think about, to try to wrap your brand around and understand.

You will find an explanation of the theme written by Professor Cecilia Nembou, President of the University, in the 2017 DWU Diary.

Perhaps Professor Nembou will also speak about it later in this morning’s program. The concept is academic, about gaining knowledge in the best and most effective way in our modern context. It is scholarly, something of the head and of the mind. You have to use your head, think straight here at DWU.

But this university also has a heart, a soul, a spirit, a social and spiritual environment in which professors can more easily transmit knowledge and students can best grow in wisdom and grace.

A Catholic/Christian university needs to recognize its special socio-spiritual atmosphere and environment that exists on its campus, for it to prosper in its mission. And so there also must be a religious theme on display around the DWU campus.

I propose the following spiritual theme for the 2017 academic year. It comes from Psalm 133 of the Old Testament. It reads:

“How wonderful it is, how pleasant it is, for God’s people to live together in harmony!”

It would be nice to see this theme prominently displayed around the campus for all to see, a daily reminder of the kind of lifestyle that prevails here, which all of us would like to foster and experience at DWU, to live together in harmony! Is everyone okay with that?

On January 1, 1968, Pope Blessed Paul 6th instituted the first World Day of Peace. This day of reflection and prayer for peace has been celebrated by the Catholic Church worldwide every year since then. This year Pope Francis began his message on the Day of Peace in this way: “At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, [1] and make active nonviolence our way of life”. In other words, “live together in harmony!”

The Scripture readings we heard earlier are both selections used by Pope Francis in his message of peace.

From the letter to the Romans: “Do not pay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in sight for all. “If possible, on your part, live at peace with all” (Romans Ch 12 verses 17 and 18).

From the Gospel of Luke: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke Chapter 6 verses 27 and 28). Pope Francis encourages each one of us to step up, be courageous and strong. Make active non-violence our way of life.

Every morning when I get up, the first thing I do before saying my morning prayer is brew a cup of coffee and turn on the TV to see what has taken place in the world over-night. Many times the news is not good – wars, suicide bombings, terrorist attack, killing in a school or community, violence in the streets or on a university campus. The list is long. There is too much violence.

Later in the day I take a look at the local newspaper. Many times the local news is also bad, a tribal fight, murders, rapes, domestic violence and child abuse. There is too much violence.

What can any of us do about these things, this violence? Perhaps, we think, not much – except each of us can build a habit of nonviolence in our own heart, in our own personal behavior.

And, we can influence others close to us to do the same. Who knows, having experienced: How wonderful it is, how pleasant it is, for God’s people to live together in harmony! At DWU, many of us might become great peacemakers in our families and communities, in the world, in the future.

Brothers and sisters, in closing, I say this to you:

  • Be proud of your ethnic heritage and traditions, but leave ethnic rivalries outside the gate of this campus. We are children of God;
  • In this year of PNG political elections, passionately discuss and debate the issues that face our nation, but do not allow political rivalries to destroy friendship and unity on this campus. We must all work together for the common good;
  • Leave anti-social behavior, such as drunkenness, drug abuse, bullying, manipulation and every kind of violence outside the gate of this campus. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

God bless you all, and remember: How wonderful it is, how pleasant it is, for God’s people to live together in harmony!”

Abp Reichert’s counsel above has resonated well with the DWU Community.

The University’s new Mission and Identity directorate headed by Fr Philip Gibbs SVD is expected to incorporate the suggestion by the Archbishop into its plan of activities on campus including times of retreat for staff and students, and thematic banners in strategic places in the Madang campus. These are all designed to enhance DWU’s place and visibility as a Catholic/Christian university that is “open to all” in a multi-cultural Papua New Guinea.