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17 December 2013


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No God can change your nation, no Evil can take it down.

Humans are the winds of changes.

The discussion on this issue is becoming interesting.

I got some information that PNG is on the road to becoming a Theocratic Democracy.

The Constitution will be amended to cater for this transformation.

Thank you Paulus for spending the time trying to work out what really needs to be done over this "problem with the carvings".

As a Christian who has been standing up to lung cancer for the past 6 years and trying to help other cancer sufferers, I know what you mean. I think some people think they can tell God what to do.

I have been very grateful for people praying for me but I have felt the hand of God guiding me in various ways - in the selection of my surgeon, in giving me a warning sign which I did not ignore when the cancer started growing again. And I have felt his blessing with my wonderful oncologist and all the nurses who gave me the chemo and my friend Jean who looked after me. And my husband who is positivity personified!

I do feel sorry for those who refuse chemo and hope some certain diet will get rid of the cancer. And I am sad when I see groups praying for a miracle when I feel that maybe God was not planning on giving one.

I am just an old style Presbyterian but I was very good friends with the Bain family while they were in PNG and I came to understand a lot about the influence of the New Age, possession, and heresies during the past years since they were murdered.

It also opened my eyes to things that had happened while I had been in PNG when I realised that I had dealt with sorcery and won.

Also I lived for 4 years in the Sepik and we had similar discussions to the present one when it came to dealing with Sepik carvings from a Christian point of view.

So I guess I'm a Christian who likes Art and Carvings, so I find these carvings and murals very interesting. But I can understand the power of the occult.

I remember I got one of my former PNG female students, who was staying with me overnight, to play the long Sepik flutes with me. I showed her what to do. She suddenly cried out - "but its the voice of the spirits" - Of course I replied - "Ha, no its not, it's just us!"

During the night we had a really fierce thunderstorm so in the morning I was greeted with "See, I told you, the gods were angry about what we did last night! HA! "

I have recently had one of my former students come to stay with me. I have been so heartened to see her strong Christian faith which has upheld her through some very trying times.

I feel that the Christian Church has played a very important role in the development of the modern state of PNG. But the State and Church must be allowed to develop separately.

I also feel that the Christian Church in PNG will have fundamentalists, people very strong in their faith, who talk in tongues, as we read about in the Bible. These people are coming out of an occult religion with strong beliefs in sorcery and evil spirits and possession and so on. They need our loving support, not our criticism. Your message from St. Benedict was marvellous and an example of what I mean.

Michael, Barbara, Paul and Bernard, thank you continuing to be the voices of reason on this blog where we can discuss issues reasonably.

I have nothing against Christian fundamentalists; in fact many of my friends are members of these groups (as are many of my friends who are agnostics and middle of the road Christians).

However I find it difficult when they begin to cause harm in various spheres of life. My own disillusionment with them began when some of our patients have died because they belonged to Christian sects who told them to stop their medication s as they were healed by faith.

I coordinate the medical degree course at UPNG and I have begun to see a trend in performance of students. In the past poorly performing students did so because they spent too much time partying or playing rugby etc.

Nowadays apart from pregnancy and partner abuse in girls, spending too much time in religious activities is taking its toll on students.

A typical case scenario was when one student failed and had to repeat a year. On counselling about studying I found to my horror that the student spent three weeknights every week attending fellowships and prayer meetings.

Her reply to my admonishment to decrease these meetings was that “God gives us knowledge and wisdom and He will give me adequate knowledge to pass”.

She was the lucky one to pass and is a doctor now because I told her about the rule of St Benedict in which monks do manual work as a form of prayer and for her studying would be akin to praying. After several discussions she began to change resulting in better academic results.

It is when any balance is lost in any form of worthwhile activity that problems arise.

Thank you Barbara.

Keep personal faith personal. Separate the State from Church.

Trash the so-called covenant. Papua New Guinea is not Israel.

Quit having fantasies that we are the 'chosen people'; that title belongs to the Jews.

Leave our ugly carvings alone.

Can someone please break that news to Theo Zurenuoc?

Michael, if you were a politician and were made the Treasurer you would have oversight of taxation. If you were a Christian you would try to make certain that the tax rates were fair to all and raised enough money so the government could run the country in a just and fair manner.

Now taxation is a big topic in Economics and this is not the place to go into it. One would hope that the Treasurer had studied a course in Economics or Accountancy.

Having good laws and adhering and enforcing the law depends on a good government, good judges, good policemen, a good ICAC, and so on. If these people are Christians then their judgements in their various roles are going to be affected by their Christian faith and beliefs.

It is the personal faith of the people involved in the Parliament, the Law Courts, the Police Force, and so on, that is crucial, not the "religious practices" of the day.

The Church and the State should be kept separate.

Ditto that question for having good policies.

I recall something about "give unto Caesar..." and a rate of "70 x 7". That's straight and steep.

But I think you've missed the point of my questions.

Does having good laws and adhering and enforcing the law depend on the religious practice of the day?

Michael, I will leave Corney to give you all the Bible quotes but I think all laws would go back to the Christian basis of "love thy neighbour as thyself".

I'm sure there are taxation laws in Australia that would not stand up to this test. A Christian politician would aim to alter them.

I'm sure there are some laws in these countries, which you name, which would stand up to the test of Christ's command.

You have to be able to see politics separately from religion. But at the same time appreciate that the religion followed by a politician is going to shape his/her ideas on what the law should be.

Barbara, I wad not aware that Christ gave us public policy and administration. Please explain Christian laws on taxation as opposed to non-Christian?

Are the laws and policies in Malaysia and Indonesia bad because they are non-Christian? And what about Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland are their wonderful tax laws Christian?

No, Bernard, the trouble started when someone decided the parliament should be conducted in a "haus tamberan" with traditional ancestor spirit carvings etc etc.

It is better to keep religion and politics separate.

If the politicians want the country to be run in a Christian way then they should make certain that they introduce Christian laws, that the public servants are paid an honest wage, that the taxes are spent wisely on government services, that the politicians are not corrupt in the handling of government revenue, and so on.

Thank you Paulus for your contribution. Very enlightening.

So the Grand Chief initiated everything by signing the unconstitutional covenant.

I vote for Paul Ripa to be Speaker for one day to reverse this madness!

I vote for all those half baked Pentecostal Pastors who signed the Paid Ad on the National to come to Paul Ripa and spend some time with him and listen to him.

If these Pastors today are teaching in their churches in the very subjective manner they have advertised, and if that is the purported theological basis(none at all)by which they have been encouraging the Speaker, then they have misled a nation, failed the Speaker and they should all hang their heads in shame.

Paulus Ripa - you raise the voice of reason very well.

Thank you.

Excellent comments, Paulus, especially the last paragraph.

I think the committee behind the removal of these objects should now listen to the public and find some general agreement on what should be done.

The Speaker thinks he is doing something which fits in with the general beliefs of his countrymen. But he should now realize that he obviously isn't.

You have pointed out the dangers of not keeping politics and religion separate. When the carvings were originally placed there surely this meant that politics was being aligned with traditional religions and the traditional way of running the tribes.

Somare has seen this problem and has tried to alter it so that the pervading religion should be Christianity. Then the problem has arisen, which branch of Christianity?

If the current plans come to fruition I think the final result will be interesting.

Bernard; A good piece and well written.
I would like to differ from your visitor Professor who stated that most of the world has moved towards secularism; whilst that may be true for the Western world in other parts of the world religious fundamentalism is on the increase and that is resulting in strife on an unprecedented scale.
Look at Egypt and Turkey where secular politics has been replaced by Islamic leaning politics with disastrous consequences and now this is happening to dozens of countries where Islam is the dominant religion. This is not only 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 the 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 rate that is worrying. That this has resulted in the Parliamentary cleansing nonsense comes as no surprise and more strife is in store.
The signs have been there all along. Most of us paid little attention to the incident where Michael Somare signed a so called covenant, which was in contravention to the constitution where religious liberty is guaranteed in the constitution. Pastors have been coercing MPs to pay so called “tithes” to churches. Churches have sprung up every 100 metres or so in the 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).
The pastors have become a laughing stock since 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 for instance the Catholic Church (to which I belong) borderi ng 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, 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.

Certainly the Jewish-Christian tradition is holding truth, education, science, research... in great esteem and has produced the Western culture in cooperation with the Greek and the Latin world...

Religion is the opium of the masses - that is what Karl Marx said and I believe that that statement is true. The only thing that matters is the pursuit of Truth.

In the pursuit of Truth one must be prepared to suspend any presence of biases including long held traditional beliefs and customs.

In the pursuit of Truth, religion is the least helpful of all branches of human knowledge because it tends to suppress the inquisitive mind from asking frank questions about itself.

If Truth is of and is God, then it does not need any one to defend it. It can and is capable of standing up for itself.

Bernard - Yes, the State has to be basically secular. All these declarations, statements, covenants, spiritual movements of reformation... may be of interest to small or big groups and, in my opinion, they can certaily be promoted in the frame of national unity and development; but since we don't like a buddhist, hindu or islamic State, why should we promote a Christian one?

There is enough and wide room for real and genuine Christian life, thinking and practice without embodying it in laws and declarations...

St. Paul already very well clarified that the "law" means nothing, it's the heart that matters. And he was talking of nothing less than the Law of Moses. For St. Paul the law is actually a curse: it just shows the distance between our real life and the ideal!

The most Paul can concede to the Law is that it could work as a mentor and a guide provided that our heart is open to it. Our law is the Gospel.

There is this tendecy from some quarters to connect the purported evil represented by the carvings in the Parliament with political corruption in the House.

This is certainly ancestral belief/feeling that finds no correspondence in Christianity. At times it seems that there are people in the community who struggle to get rid of this sort of slavery of the spirits. I understand and respect the struggle.

Of course, the risen Christ is a powerful liberating force. In the Gospels the coming of the Kingdom in fact is also depicted as liberation from all forces of evil.

In several instances Jesus heals people spiritually and psychologically trapped by spirits. We may be able to give a more scientific explanation today to those phenomena, but the fact remains that individuals and communities probably need to undergo a process of liberation from ancestral forces which modern and secular Western raised people may not be able to grasp in their significance...

I would say, however, that this should not be expected to take place in the frame of the State, but rather in the frame of the religious and spiritual community one may adhere to. In other words what the Speaker is advocating, in my opinion, is not for the State to take up but for the Churches to consider.

I don't doubt the intentions of a very decent person like Speaker Zurenuoc, but I suspect that he and the House Committee have failed the State and the Constitution by taking up something that is not theirs.

Furthermore, it seems to me that what the Speaker is seeking for the country as espressed in his recent statement, either we agree with it or not, is a task of the executive (government) not of the legislative (parliament).

In other words, the "reformation" of the country as envisaged by the Speaker, if ever has to take place and whatever shape it may take, should be carried out by the government upon proper legislation by the Parliament.

Apparently there is neither government proposal nor Parliament legislation on this issue, let alone public debate and national consultation. The Speaker is the head of the legislative, not of the executive branch of the State.

“To see properly is the hardest thing. It requires genius
Most people see by way of their parents, their masters or the social milieu in which they live.

"Sometimes on a youthful morning the scales fall from their eyes and the world appears, but only for a second and for the rest of their lives they look through that sombre curtain of images at the universe situated beyond .

"Only painters, sculptures and poets really see."

Germain Bazin, Curator in Chief at the Louvre

David, Isn't the Speaker the head of the committee?

Fr Giorgio, I read his press release and was scared.

The Covenant contradicts Section 45 of the Constitution. The law says freedom of religion and does not say that Christianity is the only form of religion that should be practiced in PNG.

The Constitution says that one's beliefs are private and one must not try to force others to follow using harassment or otherwise.

It is a deadly precedent that could destabilise the country and threaten the existence of non-Christian religions.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation is just next door. A religious conflict based on the covenant signed by the Grand Chief might lead to a Jihad.

Once when we understand the merits of the arguments for and against then one can be able to decide where one stands.

It is a tough issue.

The aim of the piece is to highlight the fact that the debate has two sides.

David - do have evidence for this? Peter O'Neill doesn't seem to remember.

Michael - sitting on the fence gives you splinters in your bum.

Wonderful contribution, Bernard! Very much enligthening also for us coming from outside. A challenge to develop in any case a "mature" religious attitude and not an expression of false security and identity.

Yes, a national debate should be promoted. There is no harm in talking. In his recent intervention the Speaker shields himself behind Michael Somare and that Covenant Declaration of 2007; which was probably as unilateral as the removal of carvings is these days...

Political leaders in PNG have probably to learn that public opinion and consultation is relevant for democracy in matters of national interest and policies...

It was the Parliament House Committee's decision and not the Speaker's. The Speaker implemented the committee's decision.

Sitting on the fence is being lukewarm.

Bernard - a well presented summary of the situation, but you don't seem to come down on one side or the argument or the other.

Whether carvings should adorn the House of Parliament is a question for PNG people to decide. But I would ask, by what right did one man have - the Speaker - to make that decision for them? Was there any consultation? And should one particular brand of religion (imported from overseas) dictate this choice for all the rest?

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