Pacific Churches cautious over PNG Christian state proposal | Pacific Beat

Pacific Churches cautious over PNG Christian state proposal

Pacific Churches cautious over PNG Christian state proposal

Updated 22 July 2013, 16:57 AEST

The Pacific Council of Churches has responded with caution to the news that Papua New Guinea politicians have endorsed the idea of the country being officially Christian.

Hela Province governor Anderson Agriru recently introduced a motion in Parliament to carry out a nationwide consultation on PNG's religious status, which was passed unanimously.

There has even been talk of banning non Christian religions.

Pacific Council of Churches spokesman Netani Rika tells Bruce Hill that Christian identity is important to most Pacific people, but this idea may not be the best way to reflect that.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Netani Rika, from the Pacific Council of Churches

RIKA: It's difficult to question whether it's good or bad. It's good that parliamentary processes are being followed. What the PCC stands for is justice and we would like to see that the matter is resolved in a just manner in Papua New Guinea. We'd remind the legislators in Papua New Guinea, that Christianity is not about making laws, rather it is about living the values of Christian life, living the values of Jesus Christ in our lives and that means being just to others, even though they may not share our beliefs.
HILL: There was some mention in this news item about making Papua New Guinea officially a Christian state, possibly banning non-Christian religions?
RIKA: Yeah, I think the issue of banning is not yet on the table. Papua New Guinea parliament is looking at reviewing its law on freedom of religion. We understand that Papua New Guinea, like many of the nations in the Pacific has a strong history of Christianity as are two of the founding fathers, two of the missionaries who first brought the Gospel to the islands and these are very dear to our people.
At the same time, with great respect, remind that, as I said before, Christianity is not about forcing anything on anyone. Indeed it's more about looking after the oppressed, about caring for widows, it's about looking after orphans, it's about providing for the underprivileged, feeding those who need food, clothing those who have none, allowing those who have no access to water to be able drink from clean supplies and that's also what our cultures about and we would just appeal during this process that they will go through that we bear these things in mind.
HILL: Have you spoken to your partner churches in Papua New Guinea, what are they telling you about how they feel about this idea?
RIKA: I think the Catholic Church has expressed similar sentiments and we are in the process of contacting our churches in Papua New Guinea. We have sent out the messages to them, messages of support to them at this time and we are waiting on them to let us know if and how they wish us to take this matter forward.
HILL: People from outside the Pacific in Western secular states might look at this and be absolutely horrified. Is there anything that people from outside the Pacific need to understand about the role of Christianity in public life, something that perhaps they wouldn't understand about this, the reasons why PNG might be looking at becoming an officially Christian state?
RIKA: I think all Pacific countries have a great respect for Christianity, because of the changes it has brought or the changes they associate with, with Christianity, the fact that it has brought about schools and it has provided basic health facilities, where there none previously. That is why I think they have placed a great emphasis on Christian values and that is where the PCC once again makes a stand on it being more important for us to live those values in our lives.
I think the Western world takes a more secular view and doesn't understand why we think this way, but as I said earlier, a lot of the values of Christians, they're also reflected in our cultures and we see a link between the two and it becomes almost the line between our religious values and our cultural values become very blurred at times.
But it's a good thing for us. It keeps us with ?? (INAUDIBLE) our faith and our cultures and this is a matter. We respect the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea's government and indeed the governments of all Pacific nations to decide what laws they will put in place. All we ask is that be done in a just manner and if the people of Papua New Guinea make the decision, then should be respected by all countries.

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