56. Religious harmony and its debt to the Japanese

Paul Quinlivan’s Snapshots

When I arrived in the Territory I was taken on a long overdue circuit but, instead of starting work as soon as we got to Rabaul, Monte took me to Vunapope to meet Bishop Scharmach. The meeting was memorable in several ways but most importantly because the bishop said that the Japanese had done one great service to the Territory. Before the invasion, he said, the adherents of the various missions used to burn down each others’ churches! ‘But when the Japanese came, they could not see any facial difference between a Popi and a Talatala so they put us both in prison camp and we started to see each other in a more Christian light. And we got along quite well together!’
In 1958 I had an unusual experience which proves this. I had to do a special investigation as to why some police had shot some Catholics and this involved quite a lot of travel by car. I could not use Government transport so Wesley Lutton, the Chairman of the Methodist Board of Missions, offered to be my chauffeur. One day he asked if I minded if he diverted for a while because he needed to check up on something and naturally I said OK. We ended up in a cleared area in the bush where a frailish looking European was energetically training a Tolai choir. I had had something to do with choirs and this man was a master who was making an already excellent choir into an even better one. We listened for some time, then drove off. I said, ‘That was wonderful’ and Wesley said, ‘Yes. The George Brown Day competition comes up soon and we have an overseas visitor we need to impress so we have brought Father Reischel in to make assurance doubly sure.’ I said, ‘Father Reischel! I didn’t know you called your pastors Father!’ Wesley chuckled and said, ‘Father Reischel is the acting bishop [Catholic] of Vunapope, while the bishop is away. But he is also a world-class musician!’

Years later, when I became president of the Boroko Parish Council (Catholic), Wesley Lutton’s wife became a highly respected teacher at St Joseph’s International School!


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