When Pornography Threatens a Nation

Last night, as my day was winding down an email popped up from my husband – PNG Tops Porn Searches on Google.

Working with Papua New Guinea since 2010, its something I’ve thought about regularly.

Let’s be honest… its something I’ve thought about much longer than that, since my generation was the first to be bombarded with chat rooms, internet stalking, sexting, online porn, and the like. I remember the days when one accidental click on email spam resulted in a screen flashing with boobs, boobs and more boobs. I have tremendous gratitude for our advances in security measures and education for parents and kids alike; I can’t even remember the last time I saw a post about making anything on my body bigger or last longer and for that I am truly thankful!

But what about in developing nations where any sort of mass media is relatively new? At least I had some awareness of pornography from my pre-internet life. I knew that those photographs on magazines hidden strategically behind gas station counters and in the back room at the video store could have harm, that there were real lives behind those photos and videos, often our world’s most vulnerable and in need.

What about those whose first encounter with anything is not only highly accessible but highly permissive. We now know scientifically what a shock it can be to the brain.

I remember visiting Papua New Guinea for the first time in 1999. Fifteen years ago. As a young 18 year old, I marvelled at the fact that in these absolutely remote places, somehow Coca Cola had managed to arrive.

Ten years later when I finally made returned I saw places even more remote. In some locations, they didn’t even have the luxury of access to Coke! Many that I met had absolutely nothing but the clothes on their back – if that. No pots or pans to be found, no plates or water cans. Maybe a machete or bush knife or two. Other than that? Nothing.

And yet… I saw mobile phones.

How in the world you find a mobile phone in a place where there’s no roads, little trade, not even so much as a cup to hold water boggles my mind, but each time that our teams return we see more and more phones… and more and more mobile reception.

Its an incredible gift. People who aren’t even acknowledged on most world maps have now been given access to some of the internet’s greatest offerings – education, access to Scripture, the ability to communicate and build relationship. What mobile phone technology has done for infrastructure, economics and even health care is astounding.

But it also comes with its vulnerabilities. And when I consider some of our dear friends in the most remote parts of PNG my heart is filled with sadness and concern. Though I love their beauty, generosity and sense of humour, I’m also aware that theirs is a culture notorious for shocking treatment of women.

I’ve often considered what would happen when you introduce men from a violent attitude toward women with access to online pornography – can the outcome ever be anything less than tragic?

And yet, when I read that report, my heart truly sank.

I had no idea the problem was already this great. Its like preparing for a bit of a hike and then finding you’re actually at the base of the Grand Canyon.

So I find myself staring at this giant, impossible-looking mountain a little bit discouraged. And yet, knowing its not impossible. Nothing is impossible. There have been countless stories of redemption – individuals, and yes, even entire nations finding redemption, hope and healing. So maybe we need to plan a little better, work a little harder, pray a little deeper, but there is Redemption to be found, hope to found, life to be found.

And so though my hope is deferred, my heart has not wavered from its resolve. Papua New Guinea – with all its beauty and generosity – I love you and your people and the day for life is at hand.

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