The National, Monday July 29th, 2013
DEFENDING his decision to allow the processing of asylum seekers and their possible resettlement in Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the decision was based on a Christian principle.
He said PNG had a moral and Christian duty to give rest and at the very least, a fair hearing to all those who were down trodden and who were homeless.
He exhorted detractors and those who were concerned about the possible influx of those of the Muslim faith into the country to remember Christ’s message that “whatsoever you do unto the least of my brothers that you do unto me”.
The concern raised was that many of the asylum seekers were Muslims and that their resettlement, if it came to that, would create religious tensions.
However remote that might seem at present such a scenario is quite realistic.
Some of the world’s most enduring conflicts are religious in nature.
The world is carved up into religious spheres and it takes no long stretch of the imagination to conclude that the last great conflict on planet earth will be religious.
Papua New Guinea shares its only land border with the most populous Muslim nation on the planet.
So far religion has not factored on any of the two nations bilateral relationship but it is most certain on the back of every diplomat’s mind and it does impact many decisions.
PNG is quite aware of what religious fanatics can do and Muslim Indonesia has shown how destructive it can be.
Religion is a subjective, emotional and the most powerful force in any country.
There are already moves before Parliament, introduced in the last session by Hela Governor Anderson Agiru, to declare this nation only for Christianity.
Implicit is the message that no other religion is welcome.
Agiru’s message, of course, has the support of most Christian fellowships right across the country.
However popular such sentiments might be, it would fly in the face of the constitutional declaration that PNG, while Christian, is tolerant of all religions.
We tolerate no discrimination, so the Constitution declares, based on sex, race or creed.
It is a basic human right and a fundamental democratic principle.
To move away from that principle and to legislate for one form of religion would fundamentally alter our ethos.
Still religion has an overbearing influence upon world affairs.
Remember that Bill Clinton was defeated when the Vatican booked out an entire city block in Cairo to lobby against America on the matter of conception.
The world is carved up into religious spheres, with Christianity and Islam being the dominant and opposing forces at present.
Is Papua New Guinea ready for Islam?
In practice, the country probably needs Islam.
It certainly needs that religion’s strict discipline, which Christian Papua New Guinea sadly lacks.
But some of its extremist tendencies such as the jihad movement this country can very well do without.
But Papua New Guinea is stoutly Christian.
It declares itself to be so in the opening lines of the Constitution.
“We the people:
- United in one nation;
- pay homage to the memory of our ancestors — the source of our strength and origin of our combined heritage;
- acknowledge the worthy customs and traditional wisdoms of our people — which have come down to us from generation to generation;
- Pledge ourselves to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now.”
That should be enough.
It has been sufficient thus far.
There is no need to enact any legislation to alienate any other faith or group.
As the Prime Minister has said to alienate another religion would itself be unchristian.
To do so would immediately attract the attention of those other religions which until now, have left PNG to its own devices.
They would take any tough measures on religion as a challenge and increase their own efforts to infiltrate PNG.
PNG, unfortunately, would be very vulnerable were that to happen.
Let PNG be free.