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Going to Heaven

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most Christian countries on earth. According to the Operation World handbook, which monitors some 220 countries, 97.3% of the PNG population is Christian. Among large countries (more than one million people or so), only Ecuador (97.4%), Guatemala (97.5%) and Paraguay (98.0%) have a higher proportion of Christians.


PNG is also one of the world’s most evangelised countries. The handbook says 2,221 foreign missionaries work in the country, a huge number for a population of 4.6 million. More than 10% of the missionaries are from Australia, and you can’t spend long in church here without being asked to give for some PNG project. I myself am part of the support group for a mission couple, from my former church, who lead a literacy programme in a remote PNG community, under the auspices of Wycliffe Bible Translators.


Now comes news that the country is on the brink of an African-style AIDS explosion. An Australian government report warns that within 20 year as many as 40% of the adult population could die, crippling the country.


The report by the Australian Government's aid agency AusAid says as many as 15,000 people out of the 4.6m population are HIV positive.


AIDS-related diseases are the major cause of death at the general hospital in the capital Port Moresby and the number of infections is rising by up to 30% every year, says the report.


…Without sufficiently qualified workers the government might not be able to function - not to mention the huge pressure the looming epidemic could have on health services.


…HIV in Papua New Guinea is largely a heterosexual problem. There is a high incidence of unprotected sex and one in every six prostitutes is HIV positive.


What on earth are church leaders teaching their 97.3% flock (or is the problem all the fault of the other 2.7%)? What messages are the missionaries bringing? Should I be directing my tithes elsewhere? Or should I just sit back content in the knowledge that so many are going to heaven?

May 16th, 2002