PORT MORESBY – At independence the constitution of Papua New Guinea did not separate church and state.
In fact, the constitution declared Christian values as a decent custom to be adopted, upheld and passed on to the next generation.
Besides, the constitution did not forbid any other religions of the world to be practiced in PNG, including Melanesia’s Animism.
Animism – the belief that all elements of the material world possess a spiritual connection to each other.
Throughout our peoples long, long historical journey, Melanesian Animism kept the many different nations in the islands of New Guinea – big and small - functioning and industrious.
Unfortunately, the early missionaries ignorantly condemned Melanesian culture in its many variations without appropriate understanding, and the kiaps continued in the same way.
The intruders used coercion – whether through sweet talk, guns or bibles - to undermine and destroy a cohesive socio-economic, spiritual and politically astute society.
Missionaries made the indigenous people feel bad about their language, names, dress and knowledge, including knowledge of the spiritual world.
The native people were taught the foreign understanding of spirituality and made to say prayers such as ‘In Nomine Patris, et filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen’.
The Pope came to PNG in 1984 and reinforced this.
The wave of cultural imperialism that swept through Melanesia forced the natives to abandon their world view and forgo a vault of knowledge about the physical and spiritual world.
The now independent state of PNG would have built Heaven here if Christianity had brought in noble customs. But it did not.
Self-proclaimed baptised Christians now manage the state institutions and they are notorious for their corruption and they intimidate the justice system with impunity.
Christianity manipulates the masses with promises of the good life and in return the masses feed the pastors and priests from their scarce and hard-earned cash.
“The Lord will bless you threefold and heaven is yours,” are the words offered to the hard working masses who give others a more luxurious life.
And, just like the missionaries, the politicians and bureaucrats have also easily fooled the God-fearing masses.
The national elections in 1997 were dominated by the issue of Sir Julius Chan’s engagement of Sandline mercenaries earlier the same year in an attempt to turn the Bougainville crisis PNG’s way.
The employment of mercenaries led to mutiny by some army officers, street protests and public disgust with politicians and their perceived corruption.
At the height of this scandal, Operation Brukim Skru (genuflection) gained momentum. This was a pan-denominational prayer campaign for repentance and for the election of a God-fearing government.
In the highly charged atmosphere leading to the elections, many candidates chose to use Christian language and slogans: ‘I am God’s Servant’; ‘I am a Born Again’; ‘God is Number One’.
Some inserted a picture of Jesus beside their own photograph on election posters.
So what happened? Bill Skate was elected prime minister. He was a man who claimed he was Christ-like - sleeping and eating with the poor and the sick; being persecuted by the political opposition.
Then in 1999, Skate declared God as the prime minister of PNG and the ‘healing’ pastor, Benny Hinn, was brought in by the government.
People on crutches and in wheel chairs came to the crusade at Sir John Guise stadium and Pastor Hinn shouted insistently, “I command you in the name of God to stand up and walk”.
The disabled struggled to rise but to no avail and that night they returned home disappointed.
Skate must have accomplished whatever political aspiration he had for flying in Pastor Hinn (and paid him K1 million) but the masses gained nothing.
Did God make a mistake in giving the people prime minister Bill Skate after Operation Brukim Skru that almost ran PNG over an economic cliff-edge in 1999?
After all, in April that year, the Catholic Church warned of an uprising in PNG unless Skate quit the government. The church accused him of presiding over political corruption and economic mismanagement.
Another disordered politician in Theodore Zurenuoc burnt the cultural poles and totem symbols from different parts of PNG that adorned the parliament building in 2013 thinking that he was doing a service to the people.
Two years later Zurenuoc wasted taxpayers’ money to send five politicians to the United States to bring to PNG a 400 year old King James bible.
The crazy politician treated the bible as a rock-star with superstitious pastors and parliamentarians carrying it, singing and dancing around it and then parking it in parliament.
Now, six years later, prime minister James Marape seems to be a loyal disciple of Zurenuoc, perhaps the last one still standing.
During this acute time when Covid-19 is a threat to the people’s lives and livelihoods, Marape is asking Papua New Guineans whether they want PNG to be officially declared "a Christian nation". Public consultations began last week to gauge support for a change to our constitution.
The inquiry is forecast to consume a K5 million and the masses are wondering what the nation will gain for expending these millions.
Most other countries are not so obsessed about their religion. Their citizens do not openly talk about their religion or hang murals of Jesus in their office.
But they are more Christ-like in their daily endeavours.
Their leaders are transparent and accountable for their actions and if they misuse $100 they tender their resignation.
Before the arrival of Christianity, the natives did not understand the Gregorian calendar and could not tell if the day was Sunday or Monday, or what the year was, but they picked up their digging sticks each dawn and went to the garden.
Each day they worked and sweated hard and their gardens bloomed with organic food. They had domesticated animals and built huge traditional houses and from time to time hosted big feasts.
Whatever God they adored through Animism, that God served them well for their honesty and hard work.
God, Allah or whatever name you give the ultimate being, does not care if you wear a tie, call his name every day, preach in public places or get circumcised.
God just wants individuals to be hard working and contribute to the advancement of humanity.
Jewish folklore said God created Adam and Eve and gave them the powers to procreate and their love resulted in the birth of Cain and Abel.
Likewise, God wants us to get married and procreate and raise children to become productive members of our society.
God also wants us to tend the different varieties of food. We simply have to dig up a banana sucker and carry it to a plot and plant it and when it bears fruit we are extending the creation.
God wants us to do simple things in life to extend his work. He does not want hooligan pastors and politicians running around wining and dining from other people’s hard work and then telling them how holy they are.
That said, I am fed up with prime minister Marape constantly referring to God when addressing the nation.
In the secular world, a prime minister whose country and government is elected by the people to govern them is expected to research, debate and develop agendas to benefit the people rather than shoving problems to God in the hope of Divine intervention.
The government has research institutions at its fingertips and the has universities to seek clarity on how best to address socio-economic and political ills.
Nominal Christians can sharpen their relationship with God in their own private time in the confines of the family unit or the chapel.
The missionaries came in the 1800s and brought their worship and prayers but life began to slide in the direction of Hades and now missionaries, government, scholars and village sages unanimously lament the demise of the good life.
Perhaps it’s about time PNG shelved Christianity and examined the religions of some of the well managed countries and economies of the world. Their religions must have served as a pillar to their good life.
Otherwise reneging on Christianity and returning to Animism may be a better option, because our ancestors were better-off before the arrival of this Western religion.