The Power of Mary in Secessionist Warfare

Anna-Karina Hermkens

in Powers

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231560
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235537 | DOI:

Series: The Future of the Religious Past

The Power of Mary in Secessionist Warfare

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This chapter examines the religious dimension of a complex power struggle at Bougainville, a small island group in Papua New Guinea, and elaborates the double role of religion as empowerment and inspiration of resistance. From 1988 until the late 1990s, people on Bougainville Island were immersed in a vicious war that destroyed nearly all infrastructure and social services. Religion, particularly Catholicism, played a major role during and after the crisis. The Bougainville struggle for independence was conceptualized as a holy war, whereby God was called upon in “an ideology of resistance”. People believed that peace could be achieved through prayers, especially pleas directed to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. Thus, Mary's power became intertwined with national identity constructions and attempts to realize a more just and responsible society at Bougainville. The Bougainville crisis demonstrates how nationalism, custom, and religion are intertwined and how they mutually enforced an ideology of warfare.

Keywords: Bougainville; religion; empowerment; power; resistance; holy war; Mary; Catholicism; Papua New Guinea; nationalism

Chapter.  8368 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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