Is the secular state a good fit for Pacific Island nations?

The general-secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea Victor Roche, says in the 1970s, the Catholic Education Services joined the Government to form an association of equals in a unified system of education in PNG.

He said this partnership had lasted but now there was little respect shown to the church by the national and provincial education authorities.

“They rarely consult their partners when setting new policies and making changes in the education system,” Roche said.

A new organisation which has recently been set up in Fiji would see this as progress.

The Pacific Islands Secular Association (PISA) was established in Fiji earlier this year.

PISA’s aim is to work with Pacific Island nations to try to persuade governments that secular republican government is more appropriate in the 21st century.

It specifically identifies the Churches’ role in health and education in Papua New Guinea as a problem.

The blogs on the Association’s website are posted under the pseudonym pisasecularists.

Details regarding the membership and structure of the organisation do not seem to be available.

PISA describes itself as is a non-party-political organisation aiming to attract members from all walks of life.

“PISA is a democratic and independent non-profit organisation which receives no funding from government or other public bodies.”

“Its work will be wholly supported by its members and supporters, those who agree that religion and politics should be kept separate.”

PISA says none of the Pacific Islands can be described as culturally secular.

It notes that Pacific Island nations have been deeply affected by missionaries from a wide range of Christian denominations, and other religions over two centuries.

“Of the Pacific Island nations only Fiji has a written constitutional separation of church and state.”

PISA believes secular state is the most developed constitutional form of democracy.

It says a secular state is typified by:

  • Constitutional separation of church and state
  • Impartiality of the state between religions and other, alternative beliefs
  • Recognition that what citizens believe is a private matter, not something that concerns government, so long as any belief does not break the law
  • Non-participation by religious organisations in the making of parliamentary laws
  • No government subsidy of religions, their schools, or alternative beliefs and their schools


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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