Declaration of PNG as ‘Christian country’ unnecessary, say Church leaders

The country's Catholic bishops express their dissatisfaction at the "lack of consultation" with local Churches in formulating the proposal

Church leaders said proposals to officially declare Papua New Guinea as a “Christian Country” is unnecessary.

The country’s Catholic bishops came out with a statement last month expressing their dissatisfaction at the government’s “lack of consultation” with local Churches in formulating the proposal.

“All considered, we do not deem it necessary to introduce amendments to the current [Papua New Guinea] Constitution,” said the bishops in a statement.

Last year, Papua New Guinea’s National Executive Council has approved a proposal to formally declare the country “Christian” under the Constitution.

Prime Minister James Marape said the country has more than 20 different Christian Churches, with Catholics comprising 27 percent, Lutherans at 19.5 percent, United Church at 11.5 percent and Seventh Day Adventists at 10 percent.

“Many who claim to be Christian, integrate their Christian faith with some indigenous beliefs and practices,” he said, adding that the influence of the Church has transformed many cultural beliefs.

“These Christian churches are also providing 60-80 percent of social and welfare services in the country and therefore the networks of the churches are mostly trusted by the people in the country,’’ said Marape.

Archbishop Anton Bal, president of the bishops’ conference, however, said the declaration seems to make a mockery of existing laws. He urged the government not to use it as a means of promoting political ideologies.

In a media briefing, Cardinal John Ribat, archbishop of Port Moresby, highlighted the important pastoral duties that Churches have in upholding Christian values.

He expressed his disappointment at the government’s lack of consideration to at least consult with churches or the different religious bodies. – with a report from The Catholic Reporter

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