DEBATE RAGES ON PNG PARLIAMENT CLEANSING (OF ARTIFACTS ONLY)
By Fr. Giorgio Licini
12 DEC 2013. Papua New Guinea is on the verge of its own dangerous “war of religion” after a few days ago the country woke up to the unthinkable: the Parliamentary House Committee had approved the removal and utter destruction of traditional works of art from the building and Speaker Theo Zurenuoc was taking the lead in tearing the artifacts down and literally chopping them into pieces. The reason: they are “ungodly images and idols”.
The uproar in the press and social media is unprecedented. With the daily “Post Courier” taking the lead in shading light on the facts, citizens but also expatriates living in Papua New Guinea have spared no chance to denounce the ideological madness which is hurting trust and respect between the different ethnic groups and Christian denominations. The Catholic Bishops Conference suspects that behind the move is a new and not well known sect of “Christian Zionists” born of a recent trip of government and parliament officials to Israel. According to press reports some of the Parliamentarians have been convinced that the worship of the only “God of Israel” is at odds with traditional representations of ancestral spirits some of which used to induce fear; much more so, of course, if these are hosted in the National House of Parliament.
Most Papua New Guineans, however, don’t see things in a so heavily charged religious and psychological manner. Since it was opened in 1984, he iconic Parliament in the shape of a traditional haus tambaran (worship house) of the Sepik region is seen as one of the few symbols of national unity: more than 800 tribes have always lived peacefully together before and after independence from neighboring Australia in 1975. Most bloggers in fact write that Parliament should rather be cleansed of widespread corrupt practices and dealings, which seriously hamper the development of the country.