Papua New Guinea

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion and the right to practice religion freely.  From April to June, Prime Minister James Marape conducted a nationwide poll on a proposed constitutional amendment defining the country as Christian.  The government did not release the results of the poll by year’s end.  Political opponents, civil society groups, and some religious groups objected to the proposed amendment, saying the country did not have an exclusive ethnic or religious affiliation and that the amendment could spark conflict among the largest faith groups.  Marape said the government would erect a monument to the country’s Christian identity in Peace Park in Port Moresby, which is land owned by the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is.  Some national ministries continued to instruct civil servants to participate in weekly prayer devotionals, but government officials said individuals could opt out without repercussions.  Students were able to opt out of religious instruction and Christian life studies courses.  Individual members of parliament continued to provide grants of government money to religious institutions in their constituencies to carry out religious activities.  All of these institutions were Christian.

Civil society representatives and religious leaders said gender-based violence, including the killing of women and their daughters accused of sorcery, was increasing in the country, and that many perpetrators were not prosecuted because they had connections to senior government officials/societal leaders.  The Catholic Diocese of Wabag included in its 2021-2025 pastoral plan instructions to pastors to raise awareness and aid victims of violence related to accusations of sorcery.  The diocese reported there were 11 women and three girls under its care during the year because they were victims of such violence.  According to the diocese, two women accused of sorcery died as a result of being beaten and tortured.  Media reported that seven Catholic priests were assaulted and robbed in their home in the Catholic Diocese of Alotau; one priest was severely injured and hospitalized.  Sources said the attackers may have targeted the priests to gain attention from the government.

U.S. embassy officials discussed with government officials, including from the Department for Community Development and Religion, the importance of equitable distribution of governmental support for religious groups.  Embassy officials engaged with government officials and civil society representatives to ensure any moves to declare the country a Christian nation did not conflict with the freedom of religion stipulated in the constitution.  The Ambassador and other embassy officials discussed religious tolerance and religious groups’ roles as health and educational service providers in regular meetings with the Papua New Guinea Council of Churches (PNGCC) and local religious leaders.  Embassy officials attended a monthly interfaith dialogue.v

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future