PNG. The following paragraphs should provide general information regarding the history and location of many of these groups inside PNG.

The Methodists were the first Protestant missionaries in Papua New Guinea. They have missions in the Solomon, Papuan, and New Guinea Islands, and are also present in the Highlands. In 1968 they joined with the Papua Ekelesia to become the United Church in 1968.

Methodists commenced work in the Duke of York Islands around 1870. In 1875 Rev. G. Brown landed along with Fijian and Samoan families, at Molot. They quickly spread to New Britain and New Ireland. They made extensive use of South Pacific Islanders, and as a result by 1900 many of the missions on the Gazelle Peninsula and surrounding areas were responsible for their own churches.

During this time Brown, along with many South Pacific Islands evangelists set up a center for worship on Dobu island. Later, New Zealand Methodists began to spread east from the Solomons, and were extremely active in Bougainville in the 1920's. After World War Two the Methodists began to move into the Southern Highlands, and began to work with the major tribal groups. Today, they continue to be the most active Protestant church in the rural areas of the country.

The London Missionary Society, which later formed into the Papua Ekelesia was formed in 1795 as the missionary arm of the Congregational movement. In 1871 fourteen married couples were landed at Daru and Redscar Bay near Port Moresby. Soon missions up and down the southern coast of Papua were controlled from Port Moresby. Deaths and low recruitment hampered the spread of the movement until 1881 when the first baptisms occurred. The church continued to grow and prosper throughout the war years until it reached from the Irian Jaya border to the tip of the Gazelle peninsula. In 1962 the L.M.S. formed the Papua Ekelesia, the first really national church in PNG. It then went on to join with the Methodists in 1968 to form the previously mentioned United Church.

The fist evidence of Anglican work in PNG was in 1891 when Rev. Maclaren and Rev. King landed on the Dogura coast which still acts as the center for all Anglican missionary work today. In 1890 a "Sphere of Influence Treaty" gave the Anglicans an area from Cape Ducie to Mitre rock. Under this treaty the Anglicans enjoyed 50 years of expansion, free from competition from other missions. At first however, recruitment in this area was slow due to the untimely death of Rev. King and the great expanse of territory to be covered. The first baptisms were conducted in 1896 and the first Bishop enthroned in 1898. World War Two took a heavy toll on their work as many native and expatriate missionaries lost their lives to the Japanese, and in 1951 the eruption of Mt. Livingston further disrupted this work as well. In 1961 the first national Bishop George Ambo, was consecrated. The Anglican Church continues to this day to serve as an important medium between the Catholic and Protestant missions in the country.

With approximately 30% of the population, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest in PNG. Their first mission dates back to 1847 when a group of French missionaries from the Society of Mary came to Woodlark Island. The following year they also established a mission at Rooke Island. Work soon stopped due to the death of Bishop Collomb and a companion from fever, and the departure of the sole remaining survivor in 1849. In 1852 the Mission was recommenced by the Foreign Missions of Milan, but it also did not last very long. Finally, in 1897 three priests and some Fijian catechists from the Society of Mary moved into Bougainville from the North Solomons. Their work succeeded and today the missionaries care for a large number of Catholic converts.

Meanwhile Catholic missionaries from the Society of the Sacred heart of Jesus of Issodoun commenced work on the gazelle Peninsula in 1882. It later became known as the Apostolic Vicariate with headquarters near Rabaul.

The Dutch arrived in Aitape in 1896 where, under the direction of Fr. E. Limbrock, the Society of the Divine Word began extensive work. The Society of the Divine Word (S.V.D.) stretched all the way down the north coast and established a large center at Alexishafen near Madang in 1906. Later the S.V.D. penetrated the Highland and Sepik areas, and continues to be very active today.

The Capuchin Order (Franciscans) began work in the Southern Highlands in 1954. Most of the missionaries are from the United States, but other orders in PNG are from Australia (for additional information go to

Over 20% of the people in PNG are Evangelical Lutheran, making them the largest Protestant church in the country. Lutheran work began along the north coast of New Guinea by the Germans in 1886. In Finschhafen Rev. J. Flierl set up a station at Simbang which gradually spread to most of the Huon Peninsula.

In 1887 the Barmen Mission set up headquarters in Madang. Of the 41 missionaries working in Madang 16 died and 21 left within a 25 year period. Gradually, though they began to grow, and by World War One Lutheran work was beginning to consolidate. After the war control of the missions were turned over to the Australian and American Lutheran Churches. In the 20's and 30's these missionaries made great strides in exploring the Highlands of PNG and spreading Lutheran teachings into the most heavily populated areas of the country. World War Two demonstrated the incredible resolve of PNG Lutherans because, despite much persecution, they continued to keep their faith. In fact, after the war ended a new Lutheran Church was set up in Wabag and many natives were converted.

The Seventh Day Adventist Missions in PNG have long refused to be bound by any geographic area, and now represent a strong force in PNG society. Although they began in 1914 with a mission in Manus they have continued on with others such as the Unevangelized Fields Mission in 1931 and the Bamu River Mission in 1939. The S.D.A.'s have very little contact with other PNG churches, and are not members of the Evangelical Alliance or Melanesian Council of Churches which are two influential organizations that are based in PNG.

The Baptists started work in Enga Province in 1949, where they set up missions at Lumusa and Baiyer River. Known for its rugged nature and rural subsistence farming, it was not one of the easiest areas to begin a mission. It was however, free from competition and fifty years later the Enga people are now an integral part of the Baptist World Alliance. Missionaries here were primarily from Australia, but now come from all over the world. Today they currently have 360 churches throughout Enga and most of the major cities. Baptists are also very active in other parts of Melanesia, especially in nearby Irian Jaya (for more information go to¹

The Baha'i Faith

More than 40 years ago the first Papua New Guineans became followers of Baha'u'llah, the Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith. Baha'is respect all religions and honour the Divine Messengers Who founded each of them. They believe that there is only one God and that God creates all peoples, so everyone is really one human family. God has sent Divine Messengers or Teachers to different parts of the world from time to time to guide the people to know and worship God. The knowledge of all of these Teachers came from God, so the foundation of all the world's religions is only one.

These three onenesses - that there is only one God; that all people are one Human family; and that all the religions are one, the religion of God - are the three main teachings brought by Baha'u'llah to the world today. He states that "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established."

In Papua New Guinea there are now more than 35,000 Baha'is, living in all provinces and representing every strata of society. In their local communities Baha'is work together in a spirit of co-operation and consultation to improve the spiritual, social and economic development of their communities. For example, the Baha'is in Papua New Guinea are working together with the National Literacy Awareness Secretariat to establish and support adult literacy and tok ples pre-schools with the aim to promote universal education. Special emphasis is put on the moral education of children and youth and the development of women.

On a larger scale, Baha'is are loyal to the government of the country and also support the aims of the United Nations. The Baha'i International Community is a recognised non-governmental organization at the United Nations, with consultative status in the Economic and Social Council.

We hope that this information will be of interest and assistance to you in understanding the aims and teachings of the Baha'i Faith and the efforts of the Baha'is in Papua New Guinea to promote unity and peace in their communities. We wish all to express our sincere thanks to you for allowing us to provide this general information.

For further details about the Baha'i Faith, you can visit its website:

Linguistics and Bible Translation

The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) estimates that a majority of Papua New Guineans over the age of 10 are print illiterate. This means that they cannot read and write even one paragraph in any language. Given that PNG has such a wealth of languages this is both tragic and unthinkable. SIL, based in Texas, assists with language training, identification, and preservation all over the world. With over 800 different languages PNG is understandably one of their top priorities. SIL observed in April of 1999, that the implementation of elementary reform is being impeded by a lack of funding. It stated that for a small country with such a large variety of languages, no greater task has ever faced the world.²

For the past half-century SIL linguists have been traveling throughout PNG identifying and translating a multitude of languages. By conducting Sociolinguistic Surveys they are able to collect data based on word lists, and analyze the dialectic differences. They also identify which languages are used in which settings to determine if they are endangered, stable, or strongly viable. These surveys, which began in 1980 still have between 300 to 341 languages left to identify.

SIL along with other NGOs, is assisting the national government in drawing up and implementing a national education policy. Up until independence the Australian government had been responsible for education in PNG. The dissemination or decentralisation of power after independence however, left the individual provinces in a better position to dictate the lingua franca of their schools. Increasingly, communities are calling for education to reflect and reinforce their language and culture, and provide for indigenous development not westernization. This means putting a halt to the use of English as the primary language used in grade schools. The main problem this creates is a lack of educational material and trained teachers in the villages. SIL is working to provide them with books and training programs that will preserve the local languages. For more information please visit

¹Special thanks to Mr. Tony Cupit of the Baptist World Alliance who provided much of this information.
²Information provided by Karl Franklin, "Language Development in Papua New Guinea." April 13, 1999

Copyright © 2004 Embassy of Papua New Guinea to the Americas and Globescope, Inc.
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