Damian Arabagali wearing a red manda hare or bachelor's ceremonial wig

by Damien Arabagali

We have seen right from the beginning that God was already working among the Huli. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to be the light of the world. But the light was here before time began and even before Christ came as a child in Bethlehem. The light was already leading the people toward the true light, God. When Christ came, everything became fulfilled and was perfected. The apostles and the missionaries represented Christ. They went all over the world enlightening people with the full light of Christ already present and gave it full radiance.
The Catholic Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Capuchin friars, the diocesan priests with various groups of sisters, and the missionaries of the other denominations – the United Church, Seventh Day Adventists, APCM, the Christian Mission of Many Lands, Wesleyans and Baptists – all came into the area as the apostles of Christ. We are grateful for what they did. Most of what they are doing seems to be in line with Christ’s teachings. However, I have drawn attention to some areas that still need to be refined. It is the aim of this book to make both parties, the missionaries and the Huli people, aware of the need for true dialogue. If the missionaries take the initiative and do that, then they will be doing justice to my people. Only through dialogue will the Huli grasp and follow the message of Christ.

Only then, can Christ become part of the culture of the people. However this process of dialogue covers only the first stage of inculturation, that is translation, which does not, really achieve the full utilization of the local values and riches. It is especially the task of the local Christian leaders to engage in the next process, that of assimilation.

There is always the possibility of seminarians becoming priests, that is, leaders in Christ’s work. This also applies to those training for the other churches. The Huli church ministers, present and to come, have to be instruments of inculturation. It is they who have the greatest responsibility to see that their people are not living two lives, or remaining “Sunday Christians”. They have to be aware that they alone can contribute something to the Church here that the expatriate cannot and never will. They are the ones who have Huli blood in their veins. They have the task to clarify the Gospel message. The Gospel should help them and their people to be better Huli. Still, to incorporate the Gospel message in the innermost being of the Huli, you have to possess certain tools and skills. The seminarian must first get through a thorough inculturation process himself. He has to know his own roots and understand them thoroughly. It has been through my research that I began to discover my people’s good points and bad points. Before that, I had no understanding of the deepest values of my people. It is up to us to assimilate the Gospel. As stated earlier, the last stage of inculturation is to transform one’s culture.

Now I see that all that eight years I have spent in seminary training were mostly geared towards making me like priest of another so called cultured people anywhere in the world. This has somehow isolated me from my people and made me a man of all people.

There is a good side to this, but this does not prepare me to be an effective minister among my own people. Rather, it hinders the work of inculturation and the contextualization of the Gospel message, and this leads us to back again to Christ, the source of everything. He was a full blooded Jew. He transformed the Jewish culture from within, and after his resurrection he lives on in the hearts of people of all cultures who have transformed minds and hearts. In the seminary training, I see the need for more adaptation. There is need for serious dialogue with the people that each seminarian is part of. Otherwise the seminarians might be brainwashed, rootless and soulless tools. They will be foreign to their own people.

Transformation entails above all a change in the way of thinking; it means, more especially, seeing all things in Christ. In order to do this, Church leaders must know all about the way their people and they themselves think and see all things. This is where the need for further studies into one’s individual roots come from.

I am thoroughly a Christian and Thoroughly a Huli

My people are made in the image of God just as everybody else. They possessed the characteristics of being the image of God, even before the coming of missionaries. They were created good, but the power of satan was trying to confuse them and lead them astray. Christ was sent as a human to liberate humanity. It was God’s wish to use the pleasing realities existing here to serve Christ and continue the work of redemption. Thus the whole of creation was sanctified by the incarnation of Christ. Christianity does not destroy Huli culture but perfects and fulfils it. The better and richer elements within Huli cultures ought to be purified and given noble expression.

The Huli God, Datagaliwabe, the haroli institution, the belief in heavenly beings, the gebe anda ritual, and other Huli teachings and practices which contain rays of the light of Christ, should be given full rein.

Our religion and culture do lack certain things that Christianity alone can offer. Like all cultures, Christ has to enter into them and transform them. The areas in need of transformation differ in various ways, but all areas of life should meet the challenge made by Christ and undergo a radical decision for Christ in order to possess “his mind” and see things as he see them (1 Cor. 2:16). This will become a reality only when the Gospel is preached in word and deed in the language of my people. The Huli culture has to be healed, purified and given noble meanings in Christ.

The Huli Christians have to take over the universal values in Christianity and enshrine them in social institutions which are Hulian and run by Huli Christians. Christ did not come just to save individual people on an isolated basis. He also came to save humanity
and the world.

He wanted his followers to be one, without boundaries and fences. These boundaries within the hearts and minds of sinful people have to be rooted out and filled with heart of love. It is in deep, caring dialogue that love and justice will be done. By being loving and just to each other, we will discover our self and the truth of our existence. The concern for each other should propel us to be “all things to all people” as St. Paul wrote (lCor. 9:22). The Huli will be allowed to worship God as a Christian without ceasing to be a Huli. The same would apply to other cultural groups, races, nations and communities.

I believe that one day, I will see Huli men, women, boys and girls worshipping God, in full Huli traditional dress.

I will not be surprised if I hear them addressing God as Datagaliwabe, and praying to Him. Ina naga Apa…(Our father…)

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