AS pillars of the spiritual community, religious leaders should speak out and shine the light on greed and corruption in public offices in Papua New Guinea.
The work of the religious leaders is to build God’s church on earth. As a practical matter, spreading the Good News occurs through worshipping in church buildings, operating schools, providing medical clinics and operating business arms to supplement their operations.
These are honourable and charitable deeds designed for our physical and intellectual nourishment. In fact, I am humbled and eternally thankful for being a direct beneficiary of such mission efforts.
Managing mission infrastructure requires considerable capital and operating funds. Financially strapped, religious leaders have frequently turned to politicians as a source for donations.
If donations from public coffers are to be staged presentations in the full media spotlight and accompanied by back slapping from religious leaders (with the implication of it being reciprocated come election time), then church leaders should recuse themselves from such public display.
Some religious leaders are appointed by local politicians to electoral fund committees as advisors. This role might place them in a position of conflict of interest and perpetuate shady and corrupt politicians and public officials.
Such public expressions portray potential impropriety and an appearance of endorsement of the culture of greed and corruption.
Religious leaders have influence in building people’s consciences and consciousness.
At the foremost, they have a spiritual, moral and ethical role to play. That is to preserve moral authority, speak the truth and keep a distance between their spiritual role and the role of the government.
Church leaders should not regard themselves as political partners, as frequently seems to be the case in PNG.
They can teach and influence the laity in moral consciousness and building community conscience. Their stature as a vessel of the truth and spiritual compass of society needs to be preserved.
Religious leaders are the spiritual counsel for their flock, including parliamentary leaders. With that comes the spiritual responsibility of calling out corruption and to stand boldly against shady practices.
It is difficult to call out malpractice if the clergy is a direct recipient or if it gives the appearance of being the beneficiary of questionable deals. This undermines the moral standing of their office.
We know that some religious leaders speak against corruption, poverty, gender violence, neglect and poverty. At the same time, many act as if they are the press secretaries of politicians.
If they feel that their call is best served in the public arena, they should resign from the clergy and run for public office.
Some clergies have honourably and faithfully served in elected office and they believe that they can play both a political role and well as being effective spiritual counselors.
As a non-theologian, I think the religious leaders should bear in mind what Jesus says about the whole aspect of the God’s kingdom.
God’s church is not about earthly buildings and statues, rather it is found in the hearts of Jesus followers. His true church will go on regardless of any political donations for projects.
Now more than ever, voicing against greed and corruption is vital as is distancing oneself from corrupt politicians.