Bahai News -- What would Jesus Christ say? Focus       Thursday 28th November 2002

What would Jesus Christ say?

THAT’S how I try to make my personal resolution of issues raised by the clash of religions. What would Jesus Christ say or do?
His anger at discovering the corruption and defilement of His Father’s house, taking his whip to the money grubbers and other crooks feeding off the people, was a rare event. 
His normal reaction was that of the calm of complete knowledge of the inner workings of the minds he confronted, whether the simplicity of the impoverished widow, or the subtleties of the temple priests. 
That omniscience promises a good solid basis upon which us mortals might make judgments; and it is the all-pervading colouring of tolerance which is so marked in. 
His reactions which so strongly bids us, his followers, to emulate. 
Regrettably I cannot say I am one of the best of his servants and followers even though I do try.
But I go along wholeheartedly with his approach. I share with Him, the reaction to the deception of the people and the misuse of their House, a reaction which sometimes rouses to a pure fury which a whip to hand would doubtless have me incarcerated in the kalabus double quick time. 
However, the knowledge of the many evil things done in the name of a religion drives me not to fury, but to despair.
The once pretty, and doubtless once laughing and carefree, 12-year-old was bound spread-eagled to a table in the living room of her bare home, her old doting grandfather was bound to a chair opposite. 
But he could no longer see her shame and his shame because his throat had been cut. 
And the little girl could not see that her grandfather was dead, because as she was ravished by the monsters called men, her eyes were gouged out.
Thus, a young Moslem girl died at the hands of some Christian fanatics.
No, I am not saying with this tale of horror (as reported in the Western press a few years back) anything about Christians and Moslems.
I would not want to deny the certainty that a Christian child had suffered a similar, perhaps even worse fate, at the hands of Moslem fanatics: fanatics are fanatics. 
The horror is about what rival religions may provide a cover for, once they stray from teaching the word of God (the God, or their God) to preaching intolerance of what other religions teach.
If a religion or sect has specific leaders or followers avowedly and clearly propagating a doctrine for the undermining of the good of the majority by destroying public order and the accepted channels of proper governance, then surely civil authority has to take action under a country’s laws to restrain these individuals, leaders or followers, who break the law. 
But where the rule of law prevails, the constraint must be in civil terms and against the offending individuals.
Attacking a religion, as a religion - that is, moving the machinery of a democratic government against a person purely for the manner in which he or she chooses to worship God — has to be an infringement of that individual’s most basic of human rights.
I refer here not simply to the right to think about his or her salvation for it goes beyond this. It goes beyond religion. It goes to the very right to think. A co-religionist who twists our shared doctrines to wreak ruin on my society does not embrace me in his tortured and peculiar interpretation of the teachings of God and of His Son.
Our widespread acquaintance with the atrocities against each other — of thought as well as of deed — which are perpetuated once religions begin to perceive themselves as rivals for these thought processes, whether Jew and Moslem, or Moslem and Christian, or this kind of Christian and that kind of Christian, or this kind of Moslem and that kind of Moslem . . . the list is endless, teaches that here is something we should strive hard to avoid.
And in a predominantly Christian country, our churches should preach the will for us to do so, and doubly to stress those values of good neighbourliness and tolerance upon which Christ’s teachings are founded.
Our major concern in PNG society, whether we are Jew, Christian, Moslem or Bahai has to be in restraining and limiting the greed and damage done not by our neighbours, but by our own leaders, especially the example they set our young people to emulate. 
What time or inclination have we in denying the basic rights of members of our society who belong to a religion which in foreign parts, like our own religion, may have their bands of extremists who make the name of a religion synonymous with evil and hate, rather than love and good.
Chasing your neighbour’s wife with an axe because she is of a different religion to yours may provide a distraction from the misery which the crookedness of some of our leaders is causing to be heaped upon this country, but check it out with JC first. 
I bet you He suggests the whip as the appropriate weapon, and the House He points you to will not be your neighbour’s, whatever his religion.
Let’s all of us, shall we, concentrate our combined energies in curbing the real evils in our land, ones we know all too well.

Conservative and generally in the right 

The 2002 budget brought down by Treasurer Bart Philemon yesterday was conservative and responsible but there were some areas that could have been improved upon and some assumptions that may never be achieved. 
Quoting the motto “Adjusting for Recovery and Development” the budget was good for mining companies, less good for petroleum companies and addressed the problems of infrastructure, especially the Highlands Highway. 
It was not good for business generally or smokers and drinkers.
Perhaps, the most frightening aspect of this budget is that there is still a “financing gap” of K166 million. This means that the budget has been framed to assume that the Government will be able to raise that amount from one or more of the donors or international lending agencies next year. 
If unable to obtain the necessary funding it has said that it will finance the “gap” from asset sales (privatisation). It is an assumption that not many of us would be allowed to make in their private lives and it is to be hoped that it is successful.
The nation has to trust that this Government will be able to perform better than any of its predecessors in controlling government expenditure.
It is estimated that arrears will be held to K60 million in 2003 despite a huge blow out of more than K300 million from the 2001 budget. 
The Treasurer is confident that this can be achieved and he announced that there has been two months in surplus since the supplementary budget. He predicts that there will be a small increase in the deficit for 2002 he announced in the August supplementary budget to K411.6 million or 3.9 per cent of GDP. 
If the arrears figure (debts that emerge after the budget is closed) does blow out, it will severely damage a budget that is already based on some brave assumptions. 
In its favour, it has announced that it will amend the Public Finances and Management Act to prevent large external claims and judgments and that it will use existing provisions in the Act to prosecute departmental heads that overspend their budgets. If these measures are successful, the Government expects to reduce the total debt of PNG from 73 per cent of GDP in June 2002 to around 55 per cent by 2007. In doing so, it will make more money available for useful expenditure as opposed to the 26 per cent of the budget that is being spent on debt servicing at present.
The Government has introduced a taxation package that is generally attractive for mining and petroleum. 
Over the last few years there has been no new investment in mining and petroleum investment. 
The industry has been telling the Government that this is because taxes in PNG are higher than other countries and investors have gone elsewhere. Because of this, there is only one small mine due to open before all the larger projects close in 2011 (except Lihir). 
The Government has abolished the Additional Profits (APT) tax for mining and reduced it for petroleum and gas. An additional profits tax comes into effect when the company makes a certain level of profit on its operations whereupon the Government increases the tax rate for that company. 
The tax rate for petroleum will now only be introduced if the company makes a 20 per cent rate of return. There is a good argument for the total abolition of the APT for both industries because it is a definite disincentive to exploration and investment. 
If PNG wants to encourage investment in this industry, it has to take steps to encourage it and this requires some bold moves. One of these is to hold a review of existing policy to take shares in mining and petroleum projects, which is to report by mid-year.
There is also some long overdue changes to the taxation regime for the forest industry. The main one being to redefine the currency that it is calculated in US dollars rather than kina.
The general tax rate on non-mining companies was increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent which will hit all other sectors. Taxable allowances on motor cars and housing have increased by 25 per cent so if you have a company car or house you will pay more tax. 
This is in contrast to the politicians who declined to have these benefits taxed as part of their salaries. 
Tax on alcohol and tobacco will increase at a faster rate each quarter.
The total development budget is estimated to be K1.2 billion of which K727m. is expected from grants from AusAID (K616m.), European Union (K43.5m.), Japan (K20m.), New Zealand (K12.4m.) and K35.5m from other countries. Of this, K356 million has been allocated for infrastructure, K85 million for the Highlands Highway and K60 million has been set aside to honour in full counterpart funding (funds that PNG has to put alongside funds from aid donors before the donor will release their money). 
A further K28 million has been set aside for agricultural research and extension and smallholder support and a further K12.5m. for the nucleus agro-enterprise project which will be funded by the Asian Development Bank and which will provide funding for private sector involvement in the provision of services and infrastructure for agriculture. The Government has also made a commitment of K2 million to resurrect the Rural Development Bank in 2003, which is a welcome start but which will require around ten times as much to make a real contribution to the credit needs in rural areas.
The Government has made a modest start in addressing some of the greatest needs facing PNG. 

©Copyright 2002, Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea)

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