Christianity and politics seem to be intrinsically linked. In Central Bougainville, which is part of the autonomous region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Catholic faith introduced by Marist missionaries has been instrumental in building a national Bougainville identity and sustaining the political struggle for sovereignty. Although the first missionaries were often cautious not to disrupt socio-political organisations, Marists have been advocating both local and Marist political interests and views in the continuously shifting religious, and socio-economical political context of colonial and “post”-colonial Bougainville. This article follows the early Catholic missionaries to Bougainville, elucidating dialectics, tensions and politics of conversion. Moreover, it shows how devotion to Mary became entangled with a particular representation of Bougainville land as Holy, and the engendering of an ethnic-religious nationalism in the context of a ten-year-long devastating conflict and struggle for sovereignty.
- Marist missionaries