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Papua New Guinea: Parliamentary sacrilege & the demarcation between State & Church

Tuesday 4 March 2014, by siawi3

15 December 2013



THE SACRILEGE COMMITTED by Theo Zurenuoc in destroying works of art by PNG master carvers and displayed in Parliament is akin to Pope Francis ordering the destruction of the works of art by Michelangelo in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.

The idea that by removing these works of art, Parliament and the body politic of PNG will be cleansed from dark pagan forces associated with the artwork is a misguided attack on our aesthetic past that has helped define us as a people.

The sacrilege to parliament is based on the interpretation of the Christian Covenant in the new testament bible with the Semitic God of the old testament Bible and that there can be no worship of idols but that of the one true God Yahweh.

It is erroneous to assert that this idea forms the fundamental philosophical and moral basis upon which modern PNG is constructed and must be held to the exclusion of any other belief system to give meaning and Christian purpose to our modern government.

This view is held by fundamentalist Christian sects and finds support in Parliament by some leaders who ought to know better.

Many of these leaders are in a symbiotic and unholy alliance with the fundamentalist sects to garnish votes at elections and in return for these sects to receive monetary benefits from their political benefactors, including provincial governments which are giving up to 10% of their budgets to these sects as tithes.

Let those that come later know that PNG is constructed with a clear demarcation between the religious and the secular in the Constitution and that PNG is constructed from 700 or 800 tribes which make up this nation.

While the Constitution acknowledges our Christian heritage and deals with the issue of State and religion in the edict prescribed by our Lord Jesus 2000 years ago [‘give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods”] religion should not superimpose itself on the secular state.

It is important for our current elected leaders to know that the influence of the Christian faith on our land is merely 100 years old and that, while it now forms part of our heritage, it cannot with its antecedent history of Euro-centric biases and prejudices replace our traditional belief systems that have been part of the landscape of this land for over the last 40,000 years.

To do so would deprive our nation and people of an inner soul and render black people like us shipwrecked not dissimilar from the black people in the American diaspora.

The current malaise facing the nation today should not be blamed on our ancient past represented in aesthetic traditional works of arts or our belief system. Instead it should be seen as a challenge that must be overcome through practical government social and economic policies.

The leading black political thinker of our time, the Kenyan Ali Z Mazrui, has linked corruption, inefficiency, mismanagement and decay of governments and infrastructure in Africa directly to the failure of black leaders to mould and integrate their nations into the world capitalist system through the western construct of religion, wealth creation, extraction and distribution.

According to Mazrui, for black nations to succeed they must hold on to what he terms cultural continuities and adapt these cultural beliefs and social systems and structures and practices into the modern capitalist framework to make their countries work.

There are however many cultures, such as India and China and those of East Asia, that have successfully made these transitions and have built modern successful nation states by holding on to their culture and belief systems, which incidentally do not include the three great Abrahamic faiths of the world.

It is important that our leaders understand this and spend time in their overseas travel to study and appreciate the different cultures and belief systems that make up the world we live in.

The impact of Western civilisation on the 40,000 year old Stone Age cultures of the people of Papua New Guinea is still being written and shaped by all of us who live here today. The effect of Western colonialism on Africa in the last 200 years provides a living laboratory for students of history and politics to draw lessons from as we try to make sense of what is happening in our country today and to develop world class solutions to problems confronting us.

In the PNG context, at Independence provisions in our Constitution catered for the ‘cultural continuities’ alluded to by Ali Mazrui and can be found in the underlying law provision of the Schedule of our Constitution and in the National Goals and Directive Principals.

As we all know, pre-contact Melanesian societies were egalitarian and embrace values of giving and sharing where wealth is shared equally, making our societies some of the most socialistic in the world.

In recent times, attempts have been made to change our society into a fully functional capitalistic one and what we see today in terms of breakdown of law and order and corruption is a direct result of the failure of these policy choices.

It would go a long way towards building a more just and egalitarian society if policy makers came to recognise this fact and moulded our State and policies to reflect our Socialistic and egalitarian past, which incidentally also has a Christian slant in the values of giving and sharing and equality.