Papua New Guinea Shows a Glimpse of the Way of Peace
It’s not often that Papua New Guinea makes international news headlines. This island country in the South Pacific struggles with poverty and violence, is largely underdeveloped, and has a gross domestic product smaller than that of Vermont. It is hardly influential in international politics. Yet on September 5, Papua New Guinea punched above its geopolitical weight by opening an embassy in Jerusalem, Israel.
The Papua New Guinean prime minister’s office announced the move on August 28. Before this, only the United States, Guatemala, Honduras and Kosovo had their embassies to Israel in Jerusalem. Most nations have their embassies in Tel Aviv out of respect for Palestinian claims to the city.
Papua New Guinea’s embassy is at the Jerusalem Technology Park, near the Guatemalan and Honduran embassies. It is a large, modern building that once housed an Israeli government ministry. Israel will bankroll much of the embassy’s operations for its first few years.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape met with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem for the embassy’s opening. Both gave speeches at a press conference.
Marape’s words especially piqued my interest. Whenever the subject of the status of Jerusalem comes up, talking points often include how the city can be divided between Jews and Arabs, or how a recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a recognition of the reality on the ground. But according to Marape, his decision had a different foundation:
Papua New Guinea values Israel because of our shared heritage, acknowledging Creator God, the Yahweh God of Israel, the Yahweh God of Isaac and Abraham. We subscribe fully to the teachings of the Bible. You [Israelis] have been the great custodian of the moral values that God passed for humanity, and in that acknowledgement to the fullest, we have decided, consciously, to walk the narrow path. Many nations choose not to open their embassies in Jerusalem, but we made the conscious choice. This has been the universal capital of the nation and people of Israel. For us to call ourselves Christian, paying respect to God would not be complete without recognizing that Jerusalem is the universal capital [of] the people, the nation of Israel.
Papua New Guinea’s roughly 10 million people are 95 percent Christian, with Roman Catholicism being the largest denomination. Marape is a Seventh-Day Adventist.
The embassy move was probably not completely out of altruism. Israel is a rich country. Recognizing Jerusalem encourages Israeli investment. In his speech, Netanyahu suggested a boon in Israeli investment is coming.
Papua New Guinea is also not a model liberal democracy. Its politics, like much of the Third World, are rife with bloodshed and corruption. Its last election, in the words of the Guardian in 2022, “was plagued with violence, with 50 election-related deaths reported …. There were also reports of voter fraud, ballot boxes being destroyed, and candidates taking over polling stations. Up to a million people were believed to have been disfranchised due to the electoral roll not being updated in a decade.” Papua New Guinean society may not be the world’s best display of Christian values in action.
But considering everything Marape could have focused on in his speech, his focus on Jerusalem’s religious significance is noteworthy.
Papua New Guinea is a former British colony. It was an Australian territory until 1975. It’s because of colonization that Papua New Guinea is majority Christian in the first place. Yet I couldn’t imagine Britain, Australia or any other Western country recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because “paying respect to God would not be complete without” it.
Contrast Marape’s words with those of Rex Tillerson, United States secretary of state when President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017:
President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aligns U.S. presence with the reality that Jerusalem is home to Israel’s legislature, Supreme Court, president’s office and prime minister’s office. We have consulted with many friends, partners and allies in advance of the president making his decision. We firmly believe there is an opportunity for a lasting peace.
Is Jerusalem the seat of Israel’s government? Yes. Is Jerusalem at the heart of the Middle East’s thorniest political issues? Yes. But it is much more than that. Until people recognize this, Jerusalem’s problems aren’t going away.
Jerusalem doesn’t just have a history stretching back thousands of years. It has a history with God for thousands of years. Genesis 14:18-20 show Jerusalemites in the Bronze Age worshiping the true God under Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High” (New King James Version). Jerusalem became the capital of Israel, God’s chosen nation, around 1000 b.c. Not long after, King Solomon built Jerusalem’s temple, the holiest structure on Earth at the time. Much later, Jerusalem was the city where Jesus Christ was crucified.
Billions of people worldwide see Jerusalem as a special city because of this heritage. Billions claim to worship the God that “has chosen Jerusalem” (Zechariah 3:2; nkjv). Yet when trying to solve Jerusalem’s problems, most leave God out of the equation.
“Jerusalem” means city of peace. God, through the pages of the Bible, shows He wants to make Jerusalem a city of real peace—for the whole world. Solomon built the temple, in part, “that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel” (1 Kings 8:43). Isaiah 66:12-13 read, “I will extend peace to her [Jerusalem] like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles [non-Israelites] like a flowing stream …. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
Yet peace is the last thing Jerusalem has seen for thousands of years. A prophecy in Zechariah 12:3 reads: “And in that day will I [God] make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in The Eternal Has Chosen Jerusalem:
Throughout Jerusalem’s history up to the present day, every kingdom and nation that has ruled this city has experienced grievous problems. … God warned that Jerusalem would be a nightmare for those governors, administrators, overseers, peacemakers and diplomats who became entangled with it—not to mention the people who called it their home. Yet the battle for control of the city has raged incessantly, and continues still.
The Bible prophesies that Jerusalem won’t see peace until the return of the Messiah. One reason Jerusalem is a burdensome stone today is because people try to rule it without God. I wonder if it would see more peace today if world leaders had more of the attitude Prime Minister Marape showed in his speech. An attitude that acknowledges the Creator God of Isaac and Abraham. An attitude that acknowledges Israel’s role in God’s plan. An attitude that sees paying respect to God would not be complete without realizing the Eternal has chosen Jerusalem. An attitude that sees Jerusalem as more than an issue of borders and demographics.
An attitude that sees Jerusalem—before it belongs to Israel, the Palestinians or anybody else—as belonging to God.
That doesn’t mean this “way to peace” has never been traveled. A real, tangible example of God’s way of peace was witnessed in living memory.
Mr. Flurry has written an entire booklet on this subject: The Way of Peace Restored Momentarily. To learn more about the way of peace and what it means for the world, request your free copy.