Friday, 13 April 2012


Every people group in the world has their superstitions. The challenge can be to work out if they are just a meaningless habit, express a deeper belief or are maybe contradictory to a confessed faith. 

Australians also have both meaningless habits and things they should maybe reflect upon. Take for example saying ‘Bless you!’ when someone sneezes. People are usually not saying a quick prayer to protect the sneezer from the black death! They are simply being polite. On the other hand, what does it mean when people swear using the name ‘Jesus’? For some it is meaningless, for others it is deeply offensive.

Sailors have a range of superstitions. Women used to be considered bad luck on ships. This was probably because one or two women among a crew of men would lead to jealousy and disputes. I have worked on ships for years and never had anyone seriously tell me that it was bad luck for me to be aboard. Rather, I have been welcomed.

Bananas are another thing considered bad luck on ships. This may be because ripening bananas emit a gas that makes other fruit ripen faster, thus ruining the ship’s supplies. I’ve found bananas on ships to be a wonderful food for seasick people. Others hold to the superstition. I’ve been made to throw out perfectly good bananas to keep a skipper happy. Another skipper banned brussel sprouts from the ship… but that was about personal preference, not bad luck.

That it is bad luck to start a voyage on a Friday is another superstition I have encountered, especially Friday 13th. Some link the idea of Friday being bad luck to Jesus being crucified on a Friday. Yet I call that day Good Friday, for it is a day of love, forgiveness and self sacrifice. 

So it is that I, a woman, will be leaving Alotau by boat on a two week translation awareness trip on Friday. Friday 13th in fact. There will probably be bananas aboard, as they are a staple food in this country. The superstitions which I am breaking are all ones I see as insignificant, because my worldview is different to the times the superstitions were formed. Also, I believe in a God who is more powerful than bananas or calendars. 

For Christians in PNG to face their traditional superstitions is a bigger challenge. It involves investigating the origins of their beliefs, reflecting on the Bible and spending a lot of time in conversation and in prayer. What can stay and what do they wish to change? Worldview is deeply embedded and change occurs slowly. Quick change is rarely lasting. Imposed change often only occurs at a surface level. Deep and lasting change comes from the initiative of the people themselves.

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