This chapter looks at the issue of religion and politics in the 2007 election in the Southern Highlands, focusing specifically on the Kagua-Erave Open electorate (Figure19.1). The great diversity in forms of religion in Papua New Guinea means that it is unwise to attempt to generalize about the effects of religion on politics. Although almost everybody in the country today identifies as Christian, the churches are very large in number and are widely divergent in beliefs and policies. 1 Further, each denomination has its own local character, influenced in part by the many popular local religions drawn from traditional beliefs which remain extremely potent. In some areas, Christianity and local religion have been drawn on to produce elaborate syncretic forms of religion which are highly influential and some of which take great interest in the political arena. In this analysis I focus on Christianity, since it is this element of religion that appears to be having the widest and most visible effect on politics in Papua New Guinea. The mainstream churches—Lutheran, Catholic, United and Anglican—have a long history and remain by far the largest Christian grouping. However, the most spectacular growth in the last decade or so has been in converts to the 'born again' evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal churches, which have such appeal that they are making rapid inroads on the traditionally large congregations of the mainstream churches. Ifocus mainly on these more recent forms of religious expression, partly because they are increasingly dominating the religious landscape but also for the more practical reason that it was these groups that I encountered in the area where I was working during the 2007 election. 1 According to Operation World, 97.28 percent of the population is Christian today (2008).
|Title of host publication||Election 2007: The Shift to Limited Preferential Voting in Papua New Guinea|
|Editors||R J May, Ray Anere, Nicole Haley and Katherine Wheen|
|Place of Publication||Canberra Australia|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|