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
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
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
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 to www.bwanet.org).¹
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
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: www.bahai.org
ASSOCIATE RELIGIOUS WORK
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
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 www.sil.org.
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