PNG church leader supports removal of carved images from Parliament | Pacific Beat

PNG church leader supports removal of carved images from Parliament

PNG church leader supports removal of carved images from Parliament

Updated 16 December 2013, 18:30 AEDT

An evangelical church leader in Papua New Guinea says people will in time realise that the Speaker of Parliament was right to remove carved wooden heads at the tops of totem poles from Parliament House.

Speaker Theo Zurenoc has come under sustained criticism since taking the actions, to cleanse Parliament of what he says or evil spiritual influences. Reverend Joseph Walters, a prominent evangelical church leader in Papua New Guinea, says the Speaker did the right thing, and there are many people who support what he did.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Reverend Joseph Walters, evangelical church leader in Papua New Guinea

WALTERS: Papua New Guinea has basically originated from an animistic society and a lot of ancestral worship and those things that we used to pay homage and respect to were unmystically, paganistically-based and that's where our argument is that carvings and statutes and other stuff that people with their hands actually have connotations and connections through the spirit world that are just as painful.

If you take a closer look of this big totem pole inside and the faces that have been carved, you will be surprised to find that they don't really resemble any Papua New Guinea face. They're faces are of Egyptian gods, they're faces of Mongoloids, the face of the Buddha, the faces of the Mongoloids, Maori like kind of appearance. So those are the face on that pole that I think the top part of the lintel.

HILL: Do you believe these carved images on the lintel of Parliament House and in the totem poles really represent that, because everyone else seems to say, no, there's just carvings representing the different peoples of Papua New Guinea. There's nothing theologically bad about them?

WALTERS: We believe they have connections to the spirit world and a lot of things have been present in the parliament and it has affected the parliament, our decisiomaking, have some direct link through the presence of these carved images from different parts of the country, especially from the Sepik and Kumbai origin where there's a lot of activity of the spirit things, witchcraft, all those things are very much connected and linked through the carvings and other things that are all inter-relatable.

HILL: So there are a large number of Christian leaders, such as yourself, who wanted the Speaker to do this. He didn't do this by himself did he. There were many people saying that he should do this?

WALTERS: There have been for many years now Bruce, and it hasn't come out very clear. A lot of people, including parliamentarians who have asked for the removal of these things, because it does not truly represent Papua New Guinea. They're just from one or two provinces that as you know that are steeped in much of this what we call, things of the dark ages, or dark people. And so the removal of these things, even can boost the tide. The tide will actually turn in favour of the Speaker support and I'm talking with the pastor who is part of the more evangelical and pentecostal groupings, which make out about half of the groupings probability in this country. They'll be a lot of support in favour of the Speaker going ahead with what has happened, because we believe that is a link to the spirit world that's been affecting our members of parliament over the years and in turn, has affected our country in many, many ways.

HILL: But what gives you and the Speaker and other people who have these beliefs about these carvings, what gives you the right to do this though against the wishes of everybody else?

WALTERS: We as pastors, church leaders, we feel duty bound by the Almighty God to take some actions in that regard, to see our nation change and the affect and impacts of a lot of undesirable things like corruption and a lot of things that's going on in our country could be the result of the facts of this case been present in the Parliament House.

HILL: Many people have many strong beliefs Reverend, but they don't necessarily act on them against the wishes of everybody else in the country. That's the question I'm asking. Can you really get away with doing something like this, despite the fact that nobody wants you to?

WALTERS: Yeah, it's very hard to explain, Bruce, because we believe that these spiritual things and have got that spiritualthing explained and a lot of people who don't understand things, of course. We will try to reason and rationalise intellectually.

HILL: My understanding of idolatry is that it's attributing power to things of wood and stone, things made by man. That kind of sounds like what you're doing, though. You're the one whose saying these things, these created things of wood and stone have power?

WALTERS: No, they do not have power. They actually stand there, but they represent an unseen force of power that connects to these carvings or statues or whatever they are and so when these things are put up, what's happening is they draw a thread, something of their kind towards them and whoever comes into that area where they are, actually come under their spell or effects or powers that can actually affect them.

HILL: Do you think that public opinion will turn around and eventually come to support the Speaker's actions in removing these images?

WALTERS: Most definitely Bruce. I believe that and once the population of Papua New Guinea and those outside get a balanced understanding of what's going on, the support for the Speaker will turn.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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