Roads to the Future: Early days in Baiyer
A place, a time & lessons learned

The naïveté of desiring a state religion


TUMBY BAY - The recent report of the Constitutional Law Reform Commission recommended changes to Papua New Guinea’s Constitution to officially make it a Christian country.

Such a move, should parliament endorse it as seems likely despite some strong opposition, has many intriguing possibilities.

The most extreme is the possibility that it is the first step towards creating a theocracy such as exists in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia and now Afghanistan.

That seems pretty far-fetched but stranger things have happened.

After being abolished in 1970, prior to independence, the death penalty was revised in the Criminal Code in 1991 and later had its scope extended to include aggravated rape and robbery in 2013.

Just recently the PNG Supreme Court opened the way for its practical application by overturning the National Court’s temporary stay of executions for all people sentenced to death.

Apart from anything else this decision had decidedly biblical overtones. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, Leviticus 24:19-21 springs to mind.

You might say that PNG is a parliamentary democracy and a theocracy, which works best in a one party state, could never happen.

But, in a way, isn’t PNG already a one party state?

Just think about the fluidity that occurs after each election as myriad nominal parties and individuals fragment, swirl and coagulate as they jockey for a places in the government.

Some of these political parties, real or illusory, have only one or two members, but all are happy to chop and change and regroup depending upon where they believe the treasure lies.

The way they behave is less like political parties vying for supremacy and more like individual members within a single party vying for position.

That is, the politicians behave pretty much as they would if they were in a one-party state.

People might look askance at the Islamic theocracies in places like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but Christian theocracies once were not unusual.

The present day theocracies are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and the only Christian theocracy, the Vatican.

Declaring Papua New Guinea a Constitutional Christian country would strongly suggest its government will be subject to divine guidance as interpreted not just by the churches but by government members and public servants.

While the Vatican, with its ruling elite of unelected cardinals, is a relatively benign theocracy somewhere like Saudi Arabia is far from benign.

In Saudi Arabia religious minorities cannot practice their religion.

Non-Islamic propagation is banned, and to convert from Islam to another religion is regarded as apostasy and is punishable by death.

I feel sure PNG would never go that far but it is interesting to speculate how far it would go if the Constitutional Law Reform Commission’s report is accepted and the Constitution is amended.

There are many countries with state religions. England is one of them with the Queen being head of the Church of England. The United Kingdom, however, does not have a state religion.

There are only a handful of countries that are Constitutionally Christian. Samoa became one in 2017.  Article 1 of the Samoan Constitution states that, ‘Samoa is a Christian nation founded of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’.

That’s probably what the Constitutional Law Reform Commission is working towards.

In politics and law it is known as ‘Christian constitutionalism’.

Ironically though, and despite what seem to be good intentions, the commission may have overlooked the geopolitical ramifications of its recommendations.

Overt Christian countries, just like overt Muslim countries, are generally regarded as politically retrograde or backward.

It is possible, therefore, that officially declaring PNG to be a Christian country will damage its reputation on the international stage.

Just look at the bad press it got when it accepted a 400-year-old King James Bible donated by an American missionary.

Instead of defining the country as an exemplar of political and moral integrity, PNG is more likely to be seen as a naïve and gullible nation set up for all sorts of exploitation by a whole new cabal of carpetbaggers.

And the last thing Papua New Guinea needs is more exploitation.

Links to further reading

Advantages and disadvantages of theocracy

Why theocracy is a failed concept in international relations

Christian constitutionalism: Ordered liberty under God


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Lindsay F Bond

Just maybe, prime minister Marape (and cohort?) has problems of Baker and other handle-stick shakers, with Covid likely to swamp all partying and pleading floats.

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