The Clash of Religion and Culture


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Picture by Lonely Planet, courtesy of EMTV PNG website.

The clash of religion and culture – the fight that almost brought the House down How many times do we hear about religion and culture clashing?Does someone’s personal belief make it right for them to destroy a nation’s heritage? Religion versus culture and vice versa is a topic that often raises concerns around the world. In 2013, I remember protesting against the destruction of 19 cultural objects in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) national parliament house on Facebook, with many others. Our National Speaker  who comes from Morobe Province, decided that he did not want the 19 statues that represented the provinces to be in the chamber. He ordered the removal and destruction of the statues, build with the house by the first prime minister, Sir Michael Somare.

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The lintels removed and damaged in the interface of the parliament chamber. Picture from Dr Andrew Motu, Head of PNG National Museum.

Ryan Shram write this very interesting article about the incident and discusses the argument about religion and culture in the material world. Ryan goes even deeper into the history of the house and the country. Click here to read this story. While I am a christian, I treasure the beliefs and good traditions of my ancestors in Melanesia, and especially in PNG. My grandmother was a great believer of both – you learnt the christian ways and you also use your traditions because that is what your identity is. Your heritage is also one that has given birth to you and there are so many great things you can learn from your culture through your beliefs, foods, celebrations, rituals and many more. It is not easy to separate yourself from your culture and your heritage – unless you choose to. Traditional medicine healed Melanesians and other indigenous people before European medicine came. The rituals and spiritual practices provided  – food, water and shelter and created sharing, love and healing in a community that was balanced with nature. All the practices were connected to and derived from nature and the environment. There are traditions in Melanesian heritage that are not good. These include sorcery and witchcraft, confusion between what is an ailment and what is a spiritual curse, the Big Man syndrome (the act of thinking you are wealthier and better with more status so you could manipulate and have several wives). The treatment of women and girls as second class is another Melanesian culture I detest. What are your experiences of your culture and religions – please share your comments here.

4 thoughts on “The Clash of Religion and Culture”

  1. This is such a thought-provoking post, Joycelin, that it needs some time to fully digest. I think the destruction of items representing a county’s heritage is criminal, for any reason at all. Religion and culture have no need to clash whatsover. Whatever a person believes now, or his/her religion is now, is not grounds for destroying wonderful artworks and relics of the past. They are for us and future generations to appreciate and learn from. I realise that in PNG this is all tied up with lingering beliefs in witchcraft and evil spirits, so it will be difficult to get around that. Sorry for rambling… All very interesting – and ‘cool’ of course – so thank you JL.

    Liked by 1 person

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