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Can Christianity Save Marape’s Political Career in Papua New Guinea? – The Diplomat

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has been working to recover from riots that broke out on January 10 and quickly turned Port Moresby into a “war zone.” Crowds took advantage of police strikes over tax increases and looted and burned shops and businesses, causing an estimated 1 billion kina ($300 million) in damage. 22 people were killed in the capital as well as the city of Lae. Over a week later, Port Moresby has returned to normal, though the police presence remains high. Investigations are underway into the conduct of senior police officers, and relief efforts are being organized to aid affected business owners, employees, and producers. Many speculated that Prime Minister James Marape’s leadership would be jeopardized by the riots, as they exposed deeply embedded inequities and dysfunctions that his government has not effectively addressed. Marape’s success has been tied to his support of a unifying Christian cause that has had a profound impact in PNG and on the world stage. He has been rallying his nation around evangelical Christianity, which is on the verge of gaining significant influence. PNG is set to declare itself a “Christian nation” in early 2024. This move may have implications for the Pacific and for the influence contest between China and the United States, as well as its support for Israel. Despite nearly 50 years of nation-building, PNG remains fragmented, with over 800 languages spoken and weak state institutions. The nation is also identifying as a Pacific nation but has the demographic, geographic, and economic characteristics similar to a Southeast Asian tiger economy. There is also a strong presence of Christian faith in PNG, reflected by the large influence of various Christian denominations and the current prime minister’s strong support of Israel. The possible constitutional recognition of Christianity is not expected to bring about drastic change to daily life, although it does raise questions about the treatment of other minority faiths.

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