“We all operate by logic—Papua New Guineans, Americans, Italians. Each culture just operates by a different logic. If we understand that logic, then we can understand each other.” Father Franco grinned. “If we don’t understand, then we feel lost.”
After over 20 years of working in Papua New Guinea, and many more around the world, Father Franco Zocca, a member of the Catholic missionary order of the Society of the Divine Word, has a vision for educating the world about Melanesian culture and practices. Father Zocca works at the Melanesian Institute (MI), based in Goroka, Papua New Guinea; MI is a research and publishing institution focused on PNG anthropology and missiology. Originally founded by missionaries who didn’t want to make mistakes of the past, MI has grown into not only providing cultural courses for church workers, but also in partnering with the University of Goroka and other organizations like SIL to learn more about PNG. MI has studied such Melanesian practices as spread of HIV/AIDs, land ownership and leasing, sorcery, church growth and movements, gender, food taboos and much more.
“The Bible is able to come alive if it is presented in culturally understandable concepts,” explained Father Franco. Without such contextualization, Bible translation is often rendered inaccurate and ineffective as a result of misunderstandings by a culture’s different interpretive logic. This May, Father Franco, Nick Schwarz and Reverend Jack Urame came to Ukarumpa to teach a two-week course on Melanesian culture, an education that many people found very helpful and applicable. Hilkka, a linguistic advisor and course participant, observed, “The MI course has been very stimulating. Their notes…give me new insights even after having been 17 years in this country, and help me to understand more of some aspects of PNG culture that have confused me.” Chad, another participant, agreed, “The topics of teaching and discussion seem very applicable to our work [of Bible translation] here.”
Now that’s logical!