Martyrs Day 2023 in Papua New Guinea and Australia

Sep 29, 2023

On Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September this year, Anglicans across Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United Kingdom paused to remember the lives and legacy of the 12 Anglicans who were martyred in New Guinea during World War II.

A delegation of ABM Board members and staff was in PNG for this day and the Rev’d Paul Devenport, ABM Board Member and Chair of the South Australian Provincial ABM Committee, offers the following reflection:

“The 75th anniversary of a school named in honour of the New Guinea martyrs was celebrated as part of Martyrs Day on Sunday the 3rd of September.

Hundreds of school students along with other dignitaries including the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Geoff Smith, attended the service at Martyrs Secondary School near Popondetta in Oro Province.

“The two-and-a-half-hour service was held for the 75th anniversary of the school and in remembrance of the 12 Anglican missionaries who were killed in the Second World War during the Japanese invasion of the country. It began with a large procession into the school chapel and the lighting of candles for the martyrs, followed by a minute’s silence. Students wearing traditional dress danced as part of the Gloria and in the Gospel procession.

“The Bishop of Waiapu in New Zealand, the Rt Rev’d Andrew Hedge, celebrated the Mass while Archbishop Geoff Smith preached. Three other Bishops were present: the Bishop of Popondota, the Rt Rev’d Lindlsey Ihove, the former Bishop of Port Moresby, the Rt Rev’d Peter Ramsden and Bishop Jonathan Meyrick, both from the UK.

“The service was followed by a school concert which featured traditional dancing and was held to raise money for the expansion of the school chapel.

“The service and concert came at the conclusion of a partners’ conference (30 August to 1 September) which included church leaders from the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea (ACPNG) along with representatives from ABM and AID, and other partner churches and church agencies from England and New Zealand.

“The conference, held at Newton Theological College near Popondetta, was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic and was centred on providing updates on the Anglican Church of PNG and how the partner agencies could help in the future.

“It was also an opportunity to visit Anglican-run health agencies, the Melanesian brothers, the Anglican Franciscans, and the Visitation Sisters.

ABM was represented at the meeting by its President, Archbishop Geoff Smith, the Board Chair, the Rev’d Andrew Sempell, Board Representative, the Rev’d Paul Devenport and ABM and AID staff, Robert McLean, and Lina Magallanes.

“The conference was also an opportunity to meet the students at Newton Theological College and to join with them and their families in daily services and meals.

“We also heard firsthand of the work that has been done over the past six years under the direction of the Acting Principal, Bishop Geoffrey Driver.

“Bishop Driver stated the college was not in a good way in 2017 but was now in-principle registered as a tertiary institution by the PNG Government and has the best theological library in PNG with 7,000 books.

“Power has also been connected over the past 12 months; all 25 buildings on the site have been rebuilt and an IT upgrade is underway.

“80 per cent of the funding for the college comes from ABM and the Anglican mission agencies in England and New Zealand.

“The partners conference emphasized the importance of mission support for the PNG Church, and in supporting the Martyrs Day Appeal, and in supporting ACPNG to provide leadership skills for Anglican parishes across Papua New Guinea.

“ACPNG is represented by five dioceses and has an Acting Archbishop, Bishop Nathan Ingen of the Diocese of Aigo Rongo in the Highlands, as well as the Bishop of Popondota, Lindsley Ihove and the Bishop of New Guinea Islands, Reginald Makele. The Dioceses of Port Moresby and Dogura are currently vacant.

“Acting Archbishop Nathan was unable to be at the conference, due to his wife still being in hospital from a serious road accident in the highlands in July, which killed Mother Juliet Kolai and seriously injured others.”

ABM is aware of and appreciates the following parishes and preachers for commemorating this day in Australia:

  • Holy Trinity Ararat, Victoria – the Rt Rev’d Garry Weatherill, Ballarat
  • St Cuthbert’s Prospect, South Australia – the Rt Rev’d Jeremy James, Willochra
  • St John’s Reid, ACT – the Rev’d David McLennan
  • All Saints’ Ainslie, ACT – Meagan Schwarz, ABM’s Key Relationships Manager
  • Christ Church St Laurence, NSW – the Rt Rev’d Murray Harvey, Grafton
  • St Paul’s Burwood, NSW – the Rt Rev’d Donald Kirk, Riverina


We would love to hear from any parish that plans to commemorate this day in 2024. Please email in case we may assist you.