The Vatican Today | Agenzia Fides
Islam arrived in Papua New Guinea about 35 years ago, when a mosque near Kimbe in West New Britain was opened.
As Fr Franco Zocca SVD, a missionary in Goroka and scholar of Islam explained, Muslims in the area take inspiration from an Islamic reform movement called Ahmadi, founded in India in the late nineteenth century.
Islam was officially registered in PNG in 1983, with the recognition of the Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea, and from that moment on, Muslims who came from outside started recruiting at a local level.
Growth has been exponential growth. In 1986, there were four Muslims in PNG, in 1990 this had grown to 440, and in 2000 they numbered 756, scattered in different provinces. Today, according to the Islamic Centre in Port Moresby, the Muslim population is about 4,000.
Local Muslim leaders say Islam is growing rapidly in the Highlands, especially in Simbu, and has been especially successful in the Melanesian population not converted to the Christian faith in the past.
Muslim leaders believe that the interest derives from the respectable behavior of Muslims, to the prohibition of alcohol and other intoxicating substances and that Islam gives guidelines that direct the whole life of believers.
The leaders believe that Islamic practices are more compatible with Melanesian values and traditional customs than Christian ones.
As an example, they cite the acceptance of polygamy, the separation between men and women and the supremacy assigned to man in the family.
Currently, the Muslim community in PNG is served by 15 Islamic centres led by imams.
Muslim youth receive scholarships to study abroad in Islamic schools in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Fiji. Upon returning home, they will become teachers, scholars and Koran jurists.
In 2002, the Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops' Conference began to organise meetings with representatives of the Muslim community and dialogue continues.