OPPOSITION leader Matthew Wale reminded SICA and SIFGA to ensure that churches maintain a strong prophetic voice to the government and the nation.
He made this statement during the Public Accounts inquiry into the budget submission by the Ministry of Peace Reconciliation and Ecclesiastical Affairs.
Wale said he is happy to see the government working collaboratively with the churches.
However, he said it is important to the spiritual life of our society and nation that the umbrella organisations of churches maintain an arms length to safeguard the too-important prophetic voice.
“Of course, it is incumbent on the churches to animate this important role,” he said.
The Ministry presented to the PAC a copy of the communique it issued with church leaders from last year’s conference outlining the desire of both the government and the churches to work closely together.
Wale said he is pleased with the communique and government’s efforts to support the churches who do a lot in our country.
He said the churches have a much wider and deeper network and presence than the government or any other organisation in the country.
“It is therefore essential that government seek ways to better collaborate with churches in delivering social policy and development services.
“However, there must be an arms-length relationship to ensure the prophetic voice of the churches to all sectors of our society, government included, must not be compromised, and money has the tendency to corrupt, and it may undermine the prophetic role of the churches.
“The churches must ensure they are in a position where they can speak out when the government is doing things that are not straight or on policy that is not good for the country.
“If churches become dependent on government for funds, this role may be compromised. I have not heard churches speaking out lately.
“Maybe because representative bodies are waiting on the funding from the government in this current budget, and that is my fear.
“This is a very valid fear, and this is an issue that is not only for churches here, but for the church globally.
“So I wish to flag this to all of us, especially those who are exercising government powers, must respect the churches’ prophetic voice, not encroaching on it.
“Those who are exercising ecclesiastical roles within the church association circles, must also respect that.
“Of course, we need to come together, work together, collaborate together, but maintain arms-length distance, so that the prophetic voice and role of the churches is not diluted, blurred and is not grey.
“We are a relationship culture. Once we know each other well and then the government does something wrong, you become too reluctant to speak out about crucial matters affecting the wellbeing of our people, in fear of upsetting the source of funding.
“We want the churches to have a clear, strong undiluted, and uncompromised voice,” Wale said.
He stressed that Solomon Islands experience during the tensions, when the government broke down, the churches stood up and spoke out clearly on issues of human rights, corruption, governance, leadership and others, while at the same time, helped to bring peace back to our country.
“So it is too important a role to be undermined and compromised in our pursuit of collaboration and cooperation and funding.
“I encourage the government to give more money to the churches as they do need capacity building, but we must ensure that this money does not destroy them.
“Any MOU between the churches and the government must protect this arms-length relationship and the prophetic voice role,” he added.