The month has now closed and what a month it has been! This year we looked back 20 years to the horrifying and tragic events of 9/11 and remembered that almost 3000 innocent people died when four commercial airlines were highjacked by Islamist terrorists. Two aircraft deliberately crashing into the twin Trade Towers in New York causing their complete collapse, another into the Pentagon in Washington and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew valiantly tried to stop the plans of the terrorists. Our hearts went out again to families and friends who mourn the cruel loss of their loved ones on that fateful day. Later we will reflect on the conseqences of that event.
So where were you on 9/11 is a question often asked? Well, we were on our way to Papua New Guinea , where ‘MAF’ the organisation I worked for had a base at Mount Hagen Airport. Mission Aviation Fellowship serves the widely scattered communities there, and the many missions and relief organisations who serve them. PNG has a population of about 7 million and is the most linguistically diverse nation on earth with 832 languages in this one small country!
We had stopped off at Melbourne in Australia on our outward journey, and on 9/11/2001 we rose early in a colleague’s home to make our way to the airport for our onward travel, and there watched on TV with unbelief the events unfolding in New York. Later at Melbourne Airport there was a hush amongst the crowd as they too watched the developing drama, sensed also in our group for the next few days as we refllected on what had just happened.
But PNG was to us another world! We spent five days flying around the Western Jungle, the river Fly basin and the Western Highlands, and other days flying to different locations out of Mount Hagen. In PNG almost 90% of people live in rural areas where over 60% have no access to clean water. Truly one of the remotest regions of the world. What impact, if any, would the 9/11 event have on the peoples of this remote nation we asked ourselves?
So here are some photos that marked that adventure for us, and yearly reminds us of 9/11.
PNG has a hot humid tropical climate which is experienced all year round. The average monthly rainfall is said to be 250-350mm and the average temperature ranges between 26-28 degrees Celsius.
Visiting the jungle hospital at Rumginae was an amazing experience as the doctors there trained health workers from a wide surrounding jungle area. They were taught how to diagnose minor and major health issues and report them by radio to the hospital. Serious cases were carried to the nearest jungle airstrip where the MAF plane picked them up and conveyed them to the hospital. It was fascinating seeing this in practice. On one of our flights we had on board a women miscarrying, but managed to get her to hospital in time to save her and her baby.
Visiting the hospital at Telefomin we met Hui Thai Tan a Glasgow trained doctor from Singapore, whom we had previously met on a number of occasions in Glasgow. He and another young doctor were dealing with every kind of disease and injury on their own. Walking round the wards with him and being introduced to a great variety of patients was a very rewarding experience. And flying to Telefomin was also somewhat exhilerating, as the plane has to rise above 14,000 feet to skip over the ring of mountains that surround the hospital.
Meeting such a variety of indigenous people as we travelled around was very special, and we were impressed by those employed by MAF in Mt Hagen, right up to management level. Everyone seemed so grateful for the help being provided by MAF, for truly they are a lifeline to these remote communities. MAF fly in Medical equipment, Building materials, school supplies, and transport coffee beans, and vegetable produce to and from markets, but most of all PEOPLE! 36,728 people flown 649,831 miles in 2018 alone, including 291 life saving medical evacuations. The ladies of the Church of Scotland Women’s Guild were greatly encouraged to see what their generous funding was helping to support.
All this while the world reeled from the events of 9/11!
So what has happened in the last twenty years?
Statistics will vary, but one report records that in Afghanistan/Pakistan during the ‘war on terror’ 241,000 people have died. 71,500 were civillians (including 8000 children), 78,500 Afghan military and national police, 3,600 US and Nato forces, 84,000 opposition fighters. In addition 2.7 million have fled as refugees, and another 4 million have been internally displaced. Wow! The US spent $2.7 trillion dollars during this period, not counting the cost to NATO, of which the UK’s commitment alone was £30 billion.
Not surprising then that it was with incredulity that we watched on our tv screens the Taliban sweep through the country late Auguust / early September, only to set up again the government displaced 20 years ago in Kabul.
The chaos, death, sadness and sorrow at Kabul airport as the US and NATO forces and their Afghan employees scurried to leave by President Biden’s deadline was too painful to watch. .Over and above all this the Taliban has now inherited all the military equipment and armaments given to the Afghan government, plus the mountain of equipment left behind by the US and NATO forces. The value has been estimated in the region of $85 billion dollars.
The IMF in April ’21 in its world economic outlook ranked Afghanistan amongst the poorest countries in the world, coming in at 21 out of 194 nations, and the UN has just asked the international community for $600 million dollars in urgent aid for Afghanistan. In comparison PNG was rated at 42 out of the 194 nations. (GDP based on purchasing power parity per capita)
So amidst the doom and gloom of our national and international news bulletins the work of MAF continues, and its always a pleasure when their magazine drops through the door, with stories of hope and good news of those helped, comforted and rescued in the world’s neediest places. Over 2,000 aid, development and mission organisations are helped by MAF to bring such assistance to thousands of communities in the world’s remotest places. It was a privilege to work with them for 10 years, they are doing an amazing job, you can check them out here http://www.maf-uk.org
Don’t we all long for a day when the world and it’s people will live in peace and harmony? Personally, I look forward with hope to the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, when he says in chapter two of his book verses 2-4
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.“
That day will surely be the brightest and the best!
Have a great October!Matthew