September 18, 2015

Pacific Islanders Destroy Church and Tell Adventists to Leave

South Pacific Adventist Record, with Adventist Review staff

Angry villagers have demolished a new Seventh-day Adventist church building in the Solomon Islands and ordered the small congregation to leave their island by the end of the month.

Irving Vagha, an Adventist leader in the Solomon Islands, an Oceanic country comprised of scores of islands east of Papua New Guinea, asked church members to pray.Selwyn Faramarama, a Bible worker who has led three people to baptism on Anuta Island. (Irving Vagha / Adventist Record)

“We have sent a message to all our pastors about this, and we are praying,” said Vagha, who oversees Adventist Volunteer Services and Global Mission for the Adventist Church in the Solomon Islands. “Please ask for everyone to pray.”

The new church building was constructed on Anglican Church-dominated Anuta Island with the agreement of the Adventist landowner but not with the permission of local authorities, the Solomon Star newspaper reported.

Putanakipenu Arikifaka, the son of the island’s first chief, told the newspaper that people enjoyed freedom of worship on Anuta but “what the Adventists are doing is not acceptable to our chiefly system.” He said the island’s system of governance was higher than the government of the Solomon Island.

“We told them that they can go ahead with their worship in their own homes but not to build a church on the island,” Arikifaka said.

He said the decision to build the church had violated the chiefs’ wishes, so the Adventists have now been asked to leave.

“We are asking all Adventist members living on the Island to … leave on any available transport that reaches the island this month,” he said.

The church was demolished by the island’s Anglican priest together with a large group of supporters, Vagha said.Selwyn Faramarama standing by the demolished church. (Irving Vagha / Adventist Record)

Anuta Island, located in a southeastern corner of the Solomon Islands, is one of the smallest permanently inhabited islands in Oceania with a population of about 300.

A local Adventist member, Selwyn Faramarama, started working on the island as a Bible worker funded by Volunteers in Action and supported by the Adventist Church in the Solomon Islands last year. Three people have been baptized, and Faramarama has been studying the Bible with five more people in preparation for baptism.

Faramarama is now in the country’s capital, Honiara, where he is seeking advice and support from Adventist church leaders.

The head of the Adventist Church in the Solomon Islands, George Fafale, will seek urgent meetings with Solomon Islands’ Council of Churches and Anglican national leaders upon his return from regional church meetings in Fiji this week.

The government of the Solomon Islands has not made a public comment about the situation.

The Adventist Church has about 47,000 members worshiping in 187 churches and 258 companies in the Solomon Islands, according to the latest figures from the Adventist world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research. Solomon Islands, known for its scuba diving and World War II-era relics, has a population of about 561,000.

Faramarama said he was keen to go back to Anuta Island to seek reconciliation. He plans to collect donations of rice and other food from Adventists in Honiara and distribute them to the Anuta chief and other islanders who are suffering food shortages after their crops were damaged by Cyclone Pam in March.