Memories of 10 Anglican missionaries who stayed in post at the cost of their lives are being renewed after a church boarding school dormitory was destroyed by fire May 23.

Each of the boarding houses at Martyrs Memorial School at Oro, in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, is named after Christians killed during World War II.

Anglican missionaries stayed at their posts despite Japanese invasion of the island nation. The destroyed building is named after John Duffill, an Australian layman who worked as a carpenter. He was beheaded by the Japanese Imperial Army and thrown into the sea and his body was never recovered.

The building dates from the 1950s. Anglicans recently observed the 77th anniversary of the Papua New Guinea Martyrs.

Fire broke out in a staff house adjoining Duffill House just as students were about to resume afternoon activities. Within an hour the blaze had spread and it proved impossible to save the boarding house. The school’s chaplain and about 60 boys were left homeless.

“The eldest daughter of the chaplain was asleep in the house and had to be rescued by students,” said Jesse Jim, principal of the Martyrs School, in a TV report. “I told students to move their things out and to stop their attempts to save the building. It was too difficult to save the dormitory.”

Discussions have begun about the future. Jim confirmed that most of the school buildings are in desperate need of renewal. Former students are being asked to donate funds for rebuilding and to assist students who have lost personal items.

At the time of the martyrdoms, many citizens of the area had been unreached by the church. Today, 80 percent of people from the Oro region are Christians.

John Martin

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