| My Land, My Country
LAE - The Papua New Guinea government has begun a survey to draw public views on a proposal to change the constitution to declare PNG a Christian country.
The Constitutional Law Reform Commission is taking carriage of the task.
Social media blasts followed the initial announcement and teams have been travelling to the provinces to speak to various groups.
The glaring questions on the minds of many people is this: Do we really need to spend that kind of money for a survey on a constitutional change to accommodate a religion? Is it really needed at this point in time?
As a country, we have so many highly divisive issues that we have to contend with.
PNG has spent the last 50 years trying to work through its cultural differences and we have managed to achieve some semblance of co-existence.
It’s not perfect and there are problems seething beneath the surface. We are still a very tribal nation. Allegiance, for a vast majority of people, is to tribe first, then to country.
The Westminster system, imported and implanted with the view of giving every one fair representation, continues to clash with those affiliations.
Politics and religion are human constructs created for the purpose of keeping order in society. Each comes with its own deities and followers.
Our politics has always been sexist and divisive. The discrimination against women candidates is glaringly obvious during elections. The voice of women is silent in this parliament.
There are multiple versions of Christianity.
Sometimes those differences erupt into physical confrontation among street preachers.
We still have long way to go in terms of religious tolerance within the confines of Christianity itself.
Muslims, despite being here as a community for over 40 years, continue to face discrimination.
Members of the Baha’i faith, who have been active participants in the development of PNG since 1954, face similar levels misunderstanding.
Unlike other countries in the region which have more than 150 years of cross cultural exchange, many PNG communities began to experience these only in the last 50 years.
When our founders drafted Section 45 of the Constitution, in their wisdom they foresaw the complications that would come about if they wrote in a specific declaration making PNG a Christian country.
How does one unify 800 nations with their own spiritual beliefs and various adopted denominations of Christianity? By allowing freedom of conscience, thought, religion and beliefs.
Section 45 cautions against forcing people to subscribe to a religion. However, religious education can be given to a child with the consent of the child’s parents.
The government has to recognise that declaring PNG a Christian country can prove detrimental to national unity.
Do we really need that?
There is a relatively large demographic of people who will readily listen to so called Christian leaders who preach that other world religions are ungodly and unwelcome.
A constitutional amendment could give rise to our own version religious extremism.
It will alter the course of party politics and foster religious intolerance.
The question we should ask is: Who are the faceless supporters of this proposal?