WHILST IT MAY BE TRUE that the Western world is moving towards secularism, in other parts of the world religious fundamentalism is on the increase and it is resulting in strife on an unprecedented scale.
Look at Egypt and Turkey where secular politics have been replaced by Islamic leaning politics with disastrous consequences. Now this is happening to dozens of countries where Islam is the dominant religion.
But this is not limited to Islamic countries and one can link religious fundamentalism fuelling ethnic tensions in Israel with the loss of dominance by the Labour party and its partners to right wing orthodox Judaism and, in India, right wing Hindu fundamentalism eroding the secular pillars of Hindu politics established by the Nehru family and People’s Congress party.
Papua New Guinea is leaning towards Christian religious fundamentalism at an alarming and worrying rate. That this has resulted in the Parliamentary ‘cleansing’ nonsense comes as no surprise and it seems more strife is in store.
The signs have been there for a long time. Most of us paid little attention to the incident where Michael Somare signed a so-called covenant, in contravention to the Constitution where religious liberty is guaranteed.
Pastors have been coercing MPs to pay so called “tithes” to churches. Churches have sprung up every 100 metres or so in rural areas and street preachers rant and rave at every corner in urban areas with no sign of concomitant increase in Christian living by the general populace (in fact lawlessness is on the increase).
Pastors became a laughing stock after they urged God to raise one of their fellow pastors from the dead in Lae recently; one wonders if it is really biblical to exhort God to do so.
Even the mainline churches have been affected with groups within the Catholic Church (to which I belong) bordering on “cultism” which the bishops need to stamp out.
In the village scenario this sort of milieu becomes fertile ground for beliefs in sorcery. The increase in sorcery related violence is simply the other side of the coin in this argument.
The most worrying thing for me (apart from the fact that the Speaker’s actions are undemocratic and in violation of the Constitution) is the erosion of the notion of separation of government and the churches. This is one of the pillars of every stable democratic country in the world.
There are very well documented historical scenarios where this separation has been blurred resulting in disastrous consequences. In the Western world the regard for the German Lutheran Church by the Nazis as the state religion resulted in disorganised opposition to eugenic and racial genocide policies in the 20th century; it however also saw the emergence of heroic pastors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller and others, many of whom paid with their lives.
Catholic giants of the period such as Cardinal Von Galen were part of a church that was uncompromising with the Nazis to varying degrees.
In many third world countries the churches were able to provide the only opposition to unjust corrupt and cruel governments (and proponents of social justice) as well as opposing western governments such as the USA propping up dictatorships or toppling democratically elected governments (such as Allende in Chile). This could only be possible when churches remained independent of politics.
I would like to think that true Christians should not shove their faith down other people’s throats; that their Christianity is implicit in what they do rather than in what they say. In PNG unless we are careful we are walking towards a scenario where we may even be legislated by our leaders to join one particular brand of Christianity.