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Overwhelmingly, Papua New Guineans identify as Christian, but many of them will secretly or openly mingle traditional ancestor worship or animist practices. The government of Papua New Guinea allows for freedom of religion, in practice as well as in policy.

The administrative and judicial branches of government have upheld a constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. Public schools in Papua New Guinea host weekly religious courses taught by representatives of local religious bodies, and students will attend those taught by churches approved by their parents, and may also be excused from attendance if their parents desire. Members of non-Christian groups are uncommon in Papua New Guinea, but are not prohibited. International monitors have reported no significant governmental or societal prohibitions based on religion.

More than 95% of Papua New Guineans are members of a Christian church. Better than 25% of the population are Roman Catholics, followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, the United Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Pentecostal, Evangelical Alliance, the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Baptist, the Salvation Army, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Christ, the Church of God International, and Iglesia Ni Cristo, a Philippine-based church. Other Christian organizations with a presence in Papua New Guinea include the Summer Institute of Linguistics, which translates the Bible into local languages, and the Young Women’s Christian Association.

The Bahá'í Faith has been involved in Papua New Guinea since at least 1954, claiming more than 20,000 followers, making it the largest minority religion in the country. Only about 5,000 Papua New Guineans claim Islam as their faith, the majority of them being Sunni Muslims. This is remarkable, given that Islam is the dominant religion in Indonesia, of which Western New Guinea is a province.

The people of Papua New Guinea are made up of more than a thousand ethnic groups, most of which have their own language and culture. Many Papua New Guineans practice traditional religions to one extent or another, although few claim this as their primary religion. These may include animist beliefs and practices, in which creatures, objects, and places are viewed as having spiritual essence. Animism is believed to be the oldest belief system in the world, predating paganism, and while they may claim Christianity as their religion, many people in Papua New Guinea also hold to animist beliefs. Ancestor worship, or the veneration of the dead, is also common, and people may believe that the dead retain the ability to influence the fate of the living. Although this is part of traditional African belief systems, it is not so different from the Catholic practice of venerating the saints.

Among many, there is also a belief in witchcraft, although this is not so tolerated. Men, women, and children in Papua New Guinea, accused of witchcraft, have been tortured and killed by vigilante groups. Because it is believed to be hereditary, children as young as four have been accused. Although the Papua New Guinea government repealed its laws prohibiting sorcery in 2013, significant fear of sorcery or witchcraft remains within the islands.

In the 1900s, cargo cults have become evident in Papua New Guinea. Originating in the Melanesian region, cargo cults began with the belief that food and other gifts arriving in the cargo holds of foreign ships were gifts from their ancestors, and have evolved into a belief that the ritual building of an airport or building that is not otherwise needed would prompt gifts from their ancestors.

There are reports that Confucian missionaries are active in Papua New Guinea, although they have not yet gained many followers.

Topics related to faith or religion in Papua New Guinea are appropriate for this category, whether in general or associated with a specific religion, denomination, practice, or missionary endeavor.

 

 

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