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Review recommends PNG become Christian state

Chairman Kevin Isifu presents final report of Declare PNG as a Christian Country Review to prime minister James Marape
Chairman Kevin Isifu presents the 'Declare PNG as a Christian Country Review' to prime minister James Marape

| PNG Bulletin Online

PORT MORESBY – If Papua New Guinea is constitutionally declared a Christian country, this will not change the rights of people to follow other religions, faiths or beliefs, says Constitutional Law Reform Commission (CLRC) chairman Kevin Isifu.

Mr Isufu made these remarks when presenting the final report of a review investigating whether the Constitution should be changed to declare PNG a Christian country.

“Among all the recommendations we put through, not one will affect our brothers and sisters from other religions to practice their faith or belief,” he told prime minister James Marape.

He said the CLRC believes the legal and policy recommendations are sound enough to declare PNG as a Christian country in the Constitution and to give prominence to God in its preamble.

Mr Isifu said the recommendations have been backed by more than 70% of the people consulted in 21 provinces and in Bougainville, who clearly stated the Constitution be amended to that effect.

“It is my firm belief these recommendations will not only give us an identity as a nation but most importantly exist to shape, mould and direct this nation today and into the future,” he said.

“I hope the recommendations contained herein will be given serious consideration and endorsement by this government.

He said time is of the essence as changes to the Constitution require adherence to strict constitutional procedures.

He said CLRC is ready to commence work on relevant Constitutional amendments and reforms.

The review was completed in six weeks. Inquiries for constitutional directives usually take 18 months to two years to complete.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

It will be interesting to read the report and see how many people were actually consulted, the type of question(s) they were asked and what their background was.

Presumably the report will be released for public perusal.

I suspect the survey was one of those where the outcome was known beforehand.

I'm not sure what James Marape is up to either. Is he solidifying his support among the churches or does he genuinely believe the imposition of Christian values can solve PNG's many problems?

Michael Dom

Religion is not an identity no matter how righteous the faithful think they are. Religion is merely a practiced belief system.

It is worth remembering that "not all who call me Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven", and that this Pharisaical proposal is made public, rather than entering into private chambers for quiet prayer.

And far better for your faith to have actions in the lives of people than mere words on a political document.

Do you require justification from God in this world and the next?

Perhaps we ask for too much while holding the scabbard for the soldier to draw his sword.

Chris Overland

The notion that PNG should declare itself a Christian state is an appalling mistake.

It is both irrelevant and a specious argument that 70% of those consulted supported the proposed change given that almost all of them will have been Christians.

I doubt that adherents to Islam or Ba'hai or Buddhism, let alone Animists or Atheists, would have the same view but they are few and the Christians are many.

History shows unequivocally that the Western world was riven by religious disputation and violence for centuries. The casualties of religious conflict number in the millions. The 30 Years War (1618-1648) alone cost at least eight million lives.

It makes no sense at all to create a situation where one religion amongst many is singled out to be constitutionally recognised.

Regardless of Constitutional Law Reform Commission's intent, this instantly delegitimises other faiths, making them of lesser status and significance and, by implication, unpatriotic or incorrect.

Similarly, inserting God into the constitution is just as sensible as inserting the Tooth Fairy. There is exactly the same evidence for the existence of both, being none whatsoever.

Christianity, whatever its supposed virtues and whatever the good works done in its name, is a religion that arose in the Middle East starting life as an heretical sect of Judaism.

Quite why it should be embedded in PNG's constitution, or any other country's for that matter, is quite beyond me.

Nothing good can come of this move. At best, no harm will be done and life will go on as before.

More likely, it will become the justification to preference Christianity above all other faiths, especially when it comes time to hand out government largesse.

Also, there is every reason to believe it will lead to attempts to change the law in other ways on the grounds they may conflict with various conceptions of Christian theology.

There is a long history of Christian activists seeking to interfere with the sexual, reproductive and intellectual rights of people.

These include the outright banning of films or books that are deemed to be theologically offensive, the persecution of minorities (especially gay and lesbian people and Jews); and trenchant opposition to things like birth control and assisted dying legislation.

At worst, this change will become a justification for religious fanatics who believe that Christianity should be the only religion allowed in PNG and demand that adherents other faiths be compelled to follow the 'true faith'.

History suggests that this is not a fanciful idea.

Religions of all kinds have bred countless generations of rigid, intolerant and fanatical followers who are more than willing to inflict their version of a religiously virtuous life upon others.

What is currently going on in Afghanistan is merely one example of this, others being Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and, to some extent at least, Israel.

Even the USA is greatly afflicted by religious fundamentalism.

As I am an atheist, people might suppose I would say this but that doesn't make me wrong.

History offers little comfort that the things I have mentioned cannot or will not occur in our supposedly more enlightened age.

My guess is that Christianity will continue to be the dominant religion in PNG far into the future, thus rendering the proposed amendment to the constitution unnecessary and redundant by any reasonable measure.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Kevin Isifu is the Chairman of the Constitutional Law Reform Commission and the other members are Dr Allan Marat, Dr Fiona Hukula, Martha Kokiva and, significantly, Dr Jack Urame, who was appointed in 2020.

Dr Urame is a Lutheran pastor and comes from the Simbu province. He studied theology and social sciences and holds a Bachelor of Theology, a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Social Sciences.

Currently he serves as the Head Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG. Formerly he served as a missionary at the centre for global mission in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bavaria in Germany.

He represents the Christian churches on the Commission.

Having a representative of the churches on the Commission strikes me as unusual, as does the date of his appointment.

I wonder how much influence he has had on the Commission's report.

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