Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape says his nation’s strong Christian faith was one of the reasons for opening an embassy in Jerusalem this week. PNG is only the fifth country to open an embassy in the Israeli capital. It’s effectively a symbolic move, underwritten by the Israeli government which will pay for the running costs of the office for the first three years.
At a ceremony attended by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Marape said: “Today is a milestone moment for my country Papua New Guinea. We are here to give respect to the people of Israel to the fullest.” The Times of Israel quotes him as saying his country subscribes fully to the teachings of the Bible.
Mr. Marape added that Papua New Guinea opened its embassy in Jerusalem “because of our shared heritage, acknowledging the creator God, the Yahweh God of Israel, the Yahweh God of Isaac and Abraham. Many nations choose not to open their embassies in Jerusalem but we made the conscious choice. For us to call ourselves Christians, paying respect to God would not be complete without recognising that Jerusalem is the universal capital of the people and nation of Israel.”
“You have been the great custodian of the moral values that were passed for humanity,” the PNG leader said to Mr .Netanyahu.
Mr. Marape told the ABC that: “For the first three years, the nation of Israel is paying for the cost of the embassy. But going forward they’ve indicated land available for us and we look forward to proceeding, setting up our permanent mission there.” Israel’s affairs in the Pacific country will continue to be managed by its embassy in Canberra.
PNG established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1978 and has previously maintained a consulate in Tel Aviv. It is one of the Pacific nations that regularly vote with Israel at the United Nations and has told Israeli leaders it would continue to do so. Most nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv because of the Palestinians’ claim to Jerusalem as their capital.
PNG will join the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo as the only countries with embassies in Jerusalem. The Times of Israel reports that Sierra Leone and Paraguay plan to open a Jerusalem embassy in the coming months. Israel is hoping that Fiji, Hungary and Suriname will follow suit.
The Times of Israel writes that while Israel’s diplomats have been hard at work building alliances with Pacific nations, much of the progress has been the result of the efforts of the Jerusalem-based International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ). When the late American nuclear scientist Victor Schlatter moved to the Papuan highlands with his wife Elsie in the 1950s to translate the Bible into local languages, he also established a network of over 100 churches that preach support for Israel.
The ICEJ appointed the Schlatters as its representative to the South Pacific islands in the 1980s, where they spread their teachings on Israel and brought thousands of pilgrims to Israel for the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebrations on the Sukkot holiday. “The ICEJ is thrilled that our many decades of work in building Christian support for Israel in the South Pacific region is bearing good fruit through these recent decisions of Fiji and Papua New Guinea to open embassies in Jerusalem,” Vice President David Parsons told The Times earlier this year.
Photo: Facebook – The Prime Minister of Israel