Growing numbers convert to Islam in Papua New Guinea

“Polygamy – this is Islam. Islam encourages four wives. Before Islam came in, people already had two, three, four wives. This is Islam”

* Remember: not only Little Green Lizards are Canniballistic!

Islam, Polygamy & Suckling Pigs in PNG

*  Thanks to WoJ cartoonist Shem 

In Papua New Guinea a growing number of people are now choosing to pray at a mosque rather than a church.  PNG is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people turning their backs on Christianity and converting to Islam.

“A lot of Papua New Guineans are converting to Islam not because they don’t like the other religion. It’s just they’ve become, they feel comfortable in there,” said Khalid, an Imam who received his training in Malaysia.

“The practice of Islam is much easier than the other religions. In the religion of Islam you are your own preacher. You learn how to pray.

“God is not only in the mosque, it’s everywhere. So if I don’t come into the mosque, the house of prayer, I can pray under the trees, in the house, anywhere.”

Papua New Guineans began converting to Islam in the early 1980s, and there are now more than 4,000 followers with recent reports of entire villages converting at the same time.

Many are drawn to Islam because of the similarities the religion has with Melanesian customs, says Isa Teine, the general secretary for PNG’s Islamic Society.

“When we greet people we hug them. This is Islam. We don’t shake hands and leave them, so most of our cultures are Islamic,” she said.

“Polygamy – this is Islam. Islam encourages four wives. Before Islam came in, people already had two, three, four wives. This is Islam.

“So when the religion came in and said, ‘oh we have to do this, our Islamic culture, we have to do this and that’, people fit in easily. So it’s very easy for Papua New Guineans to embrace Islam.

“Once the religion itself spread I tell you, I’m just predicting in 20, 30 years’ time, all Papua New Guinea will submit to Islam.”

Church leaders like Pastor Joseph Walters say they do not feel threatened by the rapid growth of Islam.

“This nation is a very strong Christian country and I travel around a lot preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God around the nation and the people generally are very strong, very dedicated, very committed to the Christian faith,” he said.

“And so it may look like a threat to Christian faith in the country, but as a church leader in this country the way I see this, and because I travel a lot in crusades and just talking to people, Christianity is even stronger than ever before.”

But not everyone has embraced the religion, with incidents of discrimination and Islam phobia quite common.

The mosque in downtown Port Moresby has been fire-bombed, there is a bullet hole in one of the windows, and a senior PNG Government minister once said that Islam was dangerous and a serious threat to peace and unity here.

“There is not much understanding,” Khalid said.

“There is not adequate understanding by the people of this country about Islam, because the more negative pictures are painted on the religion of Islam, the more people tend to believe what the other people say instead of coming and hearing from the Muslims.

Khalid says attitudes will change as the number of Papua New Guineans converting to Islam continues to increase.

* We can’t really say ‘Good Luck’ in this case, can we?

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