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  • Nigel Akuani

Declaration of PNG as a Christian Country ‘UNNECESSARY’

Port Moresby: The Catholic Bishops Conference (CBC) of PNGSI has come out strongly to express its dissatisfaction at the Government’s lack of consultation with local Churches in formulating the Inquiry on the Declaration of Papua New Guinea as a Christian Country.

The emphasis was made at a Press Conference on Thursday 20th May, at the CBC headquarters in Gordons, that also had its media release highlighted in bold with the statement “…all considered, we do not deem it necessary to introduce amendments to the current PNG Constitution…”

Speaking at the conference were His Excellency Archbishop Anton Bal, President of CBCPNGSI and Archbishop of Madang; His Eminence Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC, Archbishop of Port Moresby; Bishop of Bereina, His Excellency Otto Separy; and Mr Paul Harricknen, President of Catholic Professional Society (CPS) PNG. Moderating the session was Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb, Social Communications Secretary.

According to the statement contained in the submission, CBC disapproved all four questions contained in the inquiry and deemed it as not necessary especially in amending the current PNG Constitution.

Abp Bal described how the amendment of the Constitution to declare PNG a Christian country only seemed to make a mockery of the nation’s existing laws in place, and urged for the government not to use it as a means of promoting political ideologies.

“We believe that the democratic system of government established by the founding fathers of the Nation is not to be renounced now in favour of a theocratic one embodied in a confessional state,” he said.

He suggested that instead of a Constitutional amendment the government could opt for a public declaration of renewed Christian commitment to promote the Churches cooperation with parliament. “This would aim at upholding the true spirit of the Constitutional preamble and reminding everyone of the constant efforts at humility, conversion and inclusiveness that comes with it,” he added.

Cardinal Ribat highlighted the important pastoral duties that churches have in upholding Christian values and expressed his disappointment at the government’s lack of consideration to at least consult with churches or the different religious bodies.

“There was no opportunity for a proper referendum for us to discern and make a submission underlining our position on the issue. If there had been, then a better understanding and compromise could have been achieved,” he stated.

He said the issue must not be politicised and that the Constitution should be protected with utmost care to prevent any alteration of it. “If we lose our connection to our founding fathers then we lose sight of the core values and principals they stood and fought to include in first drafting the Constitution,” Cardinal Ribat emphasized.

Bp Separy described the inquiry as a ‘misleading statement’ that should not be used as a means to push through political agenda. “It is now a moral and religious issue threatening to harm the very fabric upon which all of Papua New Guinea’s diverse societies were founded,” he said.

Mr Paul Harricknen cautioned that any changes to the Constitution, will violate Sections 45 and 46 on ‘Freedom of Conscience, Thought and Religion, and Freedom of Expression’ which embody Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Do we really need to legislate this declaration in order for PNG to become a Christian country, will this declaration make the country any less corrupt, evil, and to ultimately become the richest black Christian country,” he questioned.

He said achieving the status of Christianity could not be achieved by legislation formation but by practicing our faith in our deeds and the way in which we lived. Mr Harricknen called on the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission to immediately advise the National Executive Council and the Government to bring to a halt their intention for a change to the Constitution.

Member of CPSPNG, Mr Michael Varpik, questioned how the country failed as a Christian nation that warranted the Inquiry for the Declaration. Ms Florence Jonduo, reporter from EMTV, wanted to know if there would be any possible repercussions if the amendment of the Constitution did come to pass.

Present for the occasion were journalists from various media organisations, representatives from Transparency International PNG, Caritas Australia, Caritas PNG, Commission Secretaries and staff of CBCPNGSI.

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