The term Martyr comes from the Greek word marturion meaning "witness" and eventually came to mean those who died for their faith because this is what happened to so many early Christian witnesses.
The Martyrs of New Guinea were eight Christian missionaries of European origin and two native Papuans. When World War II came to the shores of New Guinea, their lives were in danger. The missionaries had the option to leave and save their lives, but they received a letter from their Bishop, Philip Strong, which said in part:
“We must endeavor to carry on our work. God expects this of us. The church at home which sent us out will surely expect it of us . . . the people whom we serve expect it of us. We could never hold up our faces again if, for our own safety, we all forsook Him and fled, when the shadows of the Passion began to gather around Him in His spiritual and mystical body, the church in Papua.”
At the behest of their bishop they stayed. On September 2, 1942, the eight priests and two laymen who had been betrayed into the hands of the invaders were executed “as an example.” Their feast day also commemorates the courage and faith of Papuan Christians who tended to the wounded and saved many lives during this horrific time. Through their example we learn what it means to stay put and be witnesses in the face of danger.
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek