Moscow, September 1, Interfax - Over 100 indigenous persons living in Papua New Guinea have written a collective letter to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia requesting to start a Christian mission in the country.
The Miklukho-Maklay Foundation told Interfax that the conversion of local residents to Orthodox Christianity had started with a visit of the priest of the Parish of the Elevation of the Holy Cross in Taipei, Father Kirill Shkarbul, to the islands in January-February. The priest visited the East Sepik Province, and an entire clan of several villages with the population of some 1,000 people decided to convert to Christianity after conversations with him. The priest then arrived on the Bougainville Island, where locals also expressed their interest in the faith new to them.
According to the priest, several Papua New Guinea residents were baptized almost straight away, becoming the first Orthodox Christians in this country and over 100 people are getting ready to join the Orthodox Church. The newly converted Christians offered plots of land in the East Sepik Province and the Port Moresby city for the construction of Orthodox churches, the foundation said.
Last week, the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church made a decision to spread its pastoral care to Papua New Guinea. A considerable majority of people in Papua New Guinea also identify as Christians: according to the 2000 census, 96% of the country's population is Christian, among them, around one-quarter are Catholics, around one-fifth are Lutherans, as well as small numbers of Adventists, Pentecostalists, and Anglicans. At the same time, a large number of people combine the Christian faith with the traditional faiths of the indigenous peoples. The population of Papua New Guinea is about nine million people.