Practice what you preach

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday September 7th, 2015

 PRACTICE what you preach – that is the word from National Planning and Monitoring Minister Charles Abel to Christian churches in Papua New Guinea.

While Abel was appreciative of the invaluable contributions by churches to social development, especially in education and health, he was rather blunt about pulpit preachers.

“We should be practising the principles of Christ, not just talk about them. This is our failure as a nation. We talk too much about good Christian principles and then we go and do the complete opposite.”

We could not agree more with the senior government minister amid the public uproar about the pros and cons of Repentance Day (Aug 26) and the role of a particular church group. The Body of Christ has been heavily criticised by several mainstream churches for promoting extreme Christian beliefs bordering on Zionist principles. 

A prominent member of the Body of Christ and Speaker Theodore Zurenuoc has also been accused of promoting “cultural genocide” in pushing for radical reforms and modernisation in Parliament.

National Cultural Commission executive director Dr Jacob Simot on Friday slammed Zurenuoc for inspiring a major statement, published in The National on Aug 24, which said he had been given the mandate by the “Most High” for the cultural destruction strategies to be carried out in PNG.

“We at the National Cultural Commission are very concerned that the actions prescribed by the statement, if implemented by communities all over Papua New Guinea would result in a ‘national cultural genocide’, which in the long-term would amount to a permanent destruction of the cultures of the people of this country.”

Simet described the new phenomena as the “Waigani Madness” and likened it to the “Vailala Madness” that occurred between 1919 and 1922 in communities along the Gulf coastline, which resulted in the permanent destruction of the local cultures.

Interestingly, the Catholic Professionals Society is challenging the constitutionality of the Speaker’s reform and modernisation agenda. 

We agree that the O’Neill Government and all right-thinking Members of Parliament should not support the Speaker’s agenda, which is seemingly hell-bent on destroying the cultures that make this country so unique. 

If Zurenuoc thinks he is above the people’s mandate then it’s time he is shown the exit door to Parliament before he causes any more damage.

On the other hand, it is encouraging to note that leaders like Minister Abel are willing to work with all our churches to deliver vital services.

“Improving critical partnerships like those with the churches to deliver education and health services and provide moral guidance is vital,” Abel told a recent meeting of members of the Church Development Council, which consists of the mainstream churches – Catholic, United, Anglican, Lutheran, Salvation Army and the Evangelical Alliance of PNG. 

CDC member Fr Victor Roach of the Catholic Church acknowledged the O’Neill Government for the partnership. 

“We have a holistic view of development and that is why we are in complete agreement with the government policies and are supporting the Government to deliver services to our people.”

Insofar as the delivery of primary healthcare services is concerned, the mainstream churches account for almost 80 per cent of the country’s health services.

Until only a few years ago, these churches were responsible for everything, from building infrastructure, procurement and distribution of medical drugs and equipment to paying health workers’ salaries.

In recent times, the Government has taken over the responsibility of salaries and in some cases allocated operational grants to some of these vital establishments throughout the country.  

As Abel confirmed, the Government has provided K25 million to support infrastructure development in education and health services by churches that are already involved in a significant way in these sectors.

The government bureaucratic processes are often cumbersome and time consuming, which result in prolonged delays in the release of funds for churches.

Nonetheless, the Government and churches have started a good partnership in the provision of basic health and education services, which must be nurtured with greater understanding by all parties for the improved delivery of these services.

It is important that this partnership is further strengthened by ensuring the Government walks the talk while the churches practice what they preach.