The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, thought, and religion and the right to practice religion freely, except where that practice infringes on another person’s rights or where it violates public laws, safety, and the welfare of marginalized groups.
As of year’s end, a proposed constitutional amendment put forward by Prime Minister James Marape in 2021 that would define the country as Christian had not been introduced in parliament. Political opponents, civil society groups, and some religious groups continued to object 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. A lawsuit filed by the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha’i opposing the government’s plan to 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’i, continued at year’s end. Some national ministries continued to instruct civil servants to participate in weekly prayer devotionals, but government officials said individuals could opt out without repercussions. 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. On August 26, the National Day of Prayer and Repentance, Marape emphasized what he said was the country’s Christian identity and said, “Without God in our constitution, our diverse country will find it harder to be united.”
Civil society representatives and religious leaders again said gender-based violence, including the killing of women and their daughters accused of sorcery, was increasing, and that many perpetrators were not prosecuted because they had connections to senior government officials and societal leaders. In 2021, a parliamentary committee report concluded sorcery accusation-related violence was “absolutely unacceptable” and arose “from the misunderstanding (and sometimes the deliberate manipulation) of traditions and religion to harm innocent people, in particular women and children.” The committee determined that on average, 388 people were accused of sorcery each year in the highland provinces. One-third of the allegations led to physical violence or property damage, with victims suffering death, permanent injury, and other serious harm from torture. The Catholic Diocese of Wabag reported there were 11 women and girls under its care during the year because they were victims of such violence. According to the diocese, three women in the diocese accused of sorcery died as a result of being beaten and tortured. A Catholic Church representative told Al Jazeera witch-hunting in Enga province was becoming more barbaric and more frequent.
U.S. embassy officials discussed the importance of equitable distribution of governmental support for religious groups with government officials, including from the Department for Community Development and Religion. Embassy officials engaged with government officials and civil society representatives to urge that any moves to declare the country a Christian nation did not conflict with the freedom of religion stipulated in the constitution. Embassy officials encouraged 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.