The wantok system of Papua New Guinea enjoys an ambivalent status. On the one hand, it is as strong as a philosophy of life and a worldview that motivates existential transactions and interrelationships, marked by a strong communitarian orientation. On the other hand, it is often dismissed or perceived as a contributing factor for perpetuating deep-seated situations of social injustice and inequalities and for hindering the development of the country.
This tesina looks at the wantok system from a positive angle, seeking to rediscover and re-affirm its beauty and genuine values. It provides a reading and contemplation of culture as a privilege locus theologicus. As such the paper explores the double aspect of the evangelization of culture and the inculturation of the Gospel as essential for a contextualized theological and pastoral discourse. It uses the framework of discernment as re-proposed by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium: recognizing (listening), interpreting, and choosing (way forward).
The goal of this research is twofold. Firstly, it presents a blueprint for developing a spirituality of communion for Papua New Guinea. It does so by recognizing the positive predicaments of the wantok system and the Melanesian core values of community, life, relationship, and exchange. Arguably these values are ontologically related to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the Imago Dei. It is hoped that such spirituality becomes the new guiding principle of life, i.e., a unified vision of life that inspires individual and communal choices and activities. Secondly, it provides an outline for psycho-spiritual accompaniment and discernment for the youth of Papua New Guinea who are beset by the ambivalent outlook of the wantok system, its emphasis on obligation or payback practices. It also addresses the risk of obliterating the role of the individual and personal vocation and responsibility over the disproportional importance given to the community. Here, the paper applies the concept of ‘differentiation of self’ of Murray Bowen and makes use of the wisdom of Salesian youth spirituality.