Asylum deal may spark religious conflict, says churches

National, Normal

The National, Wednesday July 31st, 2013

 HEADS of mainline churches in Lae say the country faces the possibility of conflicts between Christians and Muslims if it goes ahead with plans to re-settle refugees.

The Lae Minister’s Fraternal, consisting of leaders of Christian churches, said in a statement that the Constitution was formulated to make the country a base for Christianity. 

But this seems to have been forgotten with the new asylum deal with Australia it said.

The statement said Christian missionaries shed blood and lost their lives to bring the gospel of Christ to Papua New Guinea and Muslims were never part of it.

The first batch of refugees sent to PNG for processing after the deal were from Iran. 

“The O’Neill government has set PNG into a very dangerous trend and our children will feel the brunt of this very foolish decision signing a deal which has nothing to do with PNG,” the statement said.

The churches questioned why Indonesia was keeping quiet on the refugee matter as the refugees sailed from there.

“Why is Indonesia not being asked by Australia to process these refugees and even ask to re-settle them there?”

The church leaders said O’Neill was going back on his words when, after being concerned about the fast growing population, he urged young Papua New Guineans to marry after they turned 25. 

“What about our Melanesian brothers on the other side of the border with Indonesia? Can we accept them into our land and resettle them?” 

The church leaders said they were concerned that O’Neill could be getting bad advice and that money and projects were being used to lure PNG into signing the asylum deal.