27/08/2013 19:49

The true Church-State partnership: legislation, social policies, auditing of public funds

By Fr. Giorgio Licini

Catholic Reporter

Yes, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and many other good Members of Parliament and Government officials never miss an opportunity to praise the Churches for being partners in service delivery and development. Apparently the show went on again on Monday, 26 August on the occasion of the National Covenant Day celebration. According to news reports for Mr. O’Neill the stage was in Goroka, where Governor Julie Soso also reiterated the call “for a religion policy to be implemented for all Christian churches to remain in PNG while outlawing other religions” (The National, 27 August 2013); something about which for a start the Churches do not agree with. At all!

The Churches also do not agree about the death penalty. They do not agree on the treatment reserved to the asylum seekers. They do not agree with many policies in the field of education. Neither they are happy with the way public funds are used and misused.

A true partnership between the Churches and the State, therefore, doesn’t really exist in Papua New Guinea. What is in place is a remnant of the colonial structure or more precisely of the missionary era. White religious men and women sailed in forces to the Pacific one hundred-fifty years ago and found a total lack of education and health services. They put in place schools and hospitals that today they still run in partnership with the government. They continue to do so because of their faith, their charitable attitude and pity for the people. Remove the Churches and the poor are left to fend by themselves.

Of course, the State cannot replace overnight the social role and function of the Churches. But it should not take advantage of the goodness and kindness of their leaders and members. If you really value and respect the Churches give them a real space in the legislative process, in policy making, and auditing of public funds.