Religious Liberty Initiative Kicks Off in Papua New Guinea
“We are delighted by the initiative of leaders to create the new PNG chapter of the International Religious Liberty Association,” states Dr. John Graz, Secretary General of the IRLA who is in PNG for religious freedom events. “The promotion of religious freedom through strong national chapters - and the key relationships, events, and policies they develop - is vital in the response to the growth of violent religious extremism and restriction of faith. We hope that this first chapter in the South Pacific will be the first of many in the region. PNG is leading the way!” James Standish, religious liberty director for the Adventist Church in the South Pacific agrees: “This is an important turning point. There are lots of complex questions facing the nations in our region. We need the organizational and intellectual infrastructure that comes from being linked into the global IRLA network to adequately address our challenges.”
The Honorable Delilah Gore, the PNG minister for community, youth and religion, represented the Prime Minister at a religious freedom symposium on the campus of Pacific Adventist University today. She presented the new IRLA chapter with a K10,000 grant from the Government of PNG. She states: “We need to expand the religious liberty movement in PNG. Even though PNG is a predominantly Christian nation, we have non-Christian religions coming here. A new chapter of the IRLA will help us peacefully and sustainably manage our growing religious diversity.”
Sir Gibbs Selika, Deputy Chief Justice of the PNG Supreme Court, will coordinate starting the new PNG IRLA chapter. “It is important that the new chapter is properly organized by being incorporated under PNG law,” he states. “This new PNG IRLA chapter will provide us an opportunity to work with fellow chapters around the world – we can learn from each other, and together we will be strong.”
“The establishment of this new chapter is a fitting outcome of the symposium sponsored by Pacific Adventist University and the Adventist Church in PNG. It ensures this won’t just be an event, but rather will have sustained impact,” states Dr. Leigh Rice, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in PNG.