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PNG Muslims: a new frontier for Islam in Melanesia

The Vatican Today | Agenzia Fides

Hohola Mosque, Port MoresbyPAPUA NEW GUINEA is the new frontier for the expansion of Islam in Melanesia.

Islam arrived in Papua New Guinea about 35 years ago, when a mosque near Kimbe in West New Britain was opened.

As Fr Franco Zocca SVD, a missionary in Goroka and scholar of Islam explained, Muslims in the area take inspiration from an Islamic reform movement called Ahmadi, founded in India in the late nineteenth century.

Islam was officially registered in PNG in 1983, with the recognition of the Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea, and from that moment on, Muslims who came from outside started recruiting at a local level.

Growth has been exponential growth. In 1986, there were four Muslims in PNG, in 1990 this had grown to 440, and in 2000 they numbered 756, scattered in different provinces. Today, according to the Islamic Centre in Port Moresby, the Muslim population is about 4,000.


Local Muslim leaders say Islam is growing rapidly in the Highlands, especially in Simbu, and has been especially successful in the Melanesian population not converted to the Christian faith in the past.

Muslim leaders believe that the interest derives from the respectable behavior of Muslims, to the prohibition of alcohol and other intoxicating substances and that Islam gives guidelines that direct the whole life of believers.

The leaders believe that Islamic practices are more compatible with Melanesian values and traditional customs than Christian ones.

As an example, they cite the acceptance of polygamy, the separation between men and women and the supremacy assigned to man in the family.

Currently, the Muslim community in PNG is served by 15 Islamic centres led by imams.

Muslim youth receive scholarships to study abroad in Islamic schools in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Fiji. Upon returning home, they will become teachers, scholars and Koran jurists.

In 2002, the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference began to organise meetings with representatives of the Muslim community and dialogue continues.


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Ben Akuani

Why accept Islam while our nation is a Christian country? Islam is a non-Christian religion.

The government of the day should think about this and do something. We are going to experience discrimination related problems which is now happening mostly in the Middle East and other countries as well if we turning a blind eye over this thing.

This is just a beginning, we expect more to come as time goes by.

Robert Jikavi

It is good that the Muslim religion helps the people of PNG by giving schorlarships to the people who do their studies in other countries.

I really trust that because one of my friends joined the Muslim faith (he's from Simbu in the district called Sinesine Yongomul). He joined about three years ago and they sent him to Saudi Arabia to do his studies.

This can influence many Papua New Guineans to join and the number can increase.

If this happens I'm very scared because PNG is a Christian country and the differences between Christians and Muslims can give rise to a conflict one way or the other.

Bernard Yegiora

Peter, nice scriptures.

At the end of the day it comes down to choice.

Peter Kranz

Sally, the "Bible as it is" also teaches mass slaughter, rape, slavery and genocide - well the OT anyway.

And while we're talking about demonising the pig as the main staple of the Highlands economy and culture, consider these texts...

Romans 14:14....

“There is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

1 Timothy 4:3-4....

"For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."

Matthew 15:11....

"Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”

Acts 10:10-16....

"He (Peter) became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Sally Lance

The Seventh Day Adventist church teaches the bible as it is without omiting any aspect of it.

If you read and study the bible you will not be tempted to eat unclean foods mentioned in the bible, including swine or pig, alcohol, and any substance that harms the health of your body so you have a healthy body to serve God in any way you can according to your ability.

Bernard Yegiora

In Simbu, they have one mosque in Dom and another at Waingar. Maybe this religion can curb the alcohol problem we have in PNG.

I was watching Ben Affleck's 'Argo' the other day and was amazed when they stopped alcoholic beverages when entering Iranian airspace.

But scared of Huntington's 'Clash of Civilizations'. With the Christian nation tag sooner or later conflict will arise, no doubt.

Peter Kranz

Paul - you must be talking about the Seven Days.

I questioned a friend who was a member and asked "how you manage with the rules against eating pig meat?"

He replied "when we go to church we do what the church wants, but when back in the village we do what the village wants!"

Colin Huggins

Very impressive indeed. Money seems no barrier.
I guess the village pigs will now be safe.

Paul Oates

Another interesting point of conjecture was when kiaps insisted tribal fighting was tambu and promoted the keeping of pigs in pigpens for protein.

Then the didimen came along and promoted coffee as a cash crop to help pay for the children's education, etc..

Then along came a particular mission that told the people that eating pork was a sin and to get rid of their traditional pigs.

They were also told that drinking coffee was also a sin and to pull out all their coffee trees.

No wonder there was confusion and misunderstanding at the kunai level. If we can't 'get it together', how can we ever expect others to do so?

Dr Peter McGlynn

An interesting post. Not mentioned was the mutual Muslim and PNG highlands distaste for eating pigs. (Tongue firmly in cheek.)

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