PNG authorities back down on Sabbath voting

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A citizen considers the options on offer in the upcoming national elections.

Electoral officials in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have made changes to the upcoming general election to ensure no Christian will have to vote on their day of worship.

After the announcement was made that polling would run from June 24 to July 8, a concerned Pastor Kepsie Elodo, the president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in PNG, wrote to the Chief Electoral Commissioner noting that these dates included three Sabbaths. He warned that if electoral officials scheduled their visit to a particular community on a Saturday, local Adventists there would not vote.

“While we respect our [government] authority, God’s law is superior.”

“We were worried about the Sunday-keeping Christians too,” said Pastor Cameron Wari, communication director for the PNG Union Mission. “They would be in the same situation if they were asked to vote on Sunday.” But he admits he was doubtful that Pastor Elodo’s appeal would produce any results from authorities only a month out from the commencement of polling.

While awaiting a response from the Electoral Commission, Pastor Elodo also released a statement addressed to the nation’s 294,000 Adventist members, encouraging them to pray for and work towards a peaceful campaign and election season. “Avoid voting on Sabbath,” he added. “While we respect our [government] authority, God’s law is superior.”

Church leaders and members in Papua New Guinea were very grateful when the Electoral Commission responded positively to their concerns, communicating through the media that although the polling dates would officially remain the same, electoral officials would not be working on the weekend. The government is widely expected to announce Monday, June 27 as a public holiday so employees in the towns can have the time to vote.

“I call on all Seventh-day Adventists to pray for the elections,” said Pastor Elodo. “Every church member must pray so God will appoint good leaders to run our nation.”

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