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Church call for independence for West Papua: Anglican Ink, November 20, 2012 November 20, 2012

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The Rt. Rev. James Ligo, Bishop of Vanuatu

The independence of the West Papuan people from their Indonesia overlords is an issue of immediate concern for the churches of Vanuatu – the former New Hebrides – the Anglican bishop of the Pacific island chain, the Rt. Rev. James Ligo.

Speaking before the start of the meeting of the Vanuatu Christian Council, Bishop Ligo criticized the government of Prime Minister Sato Kilman from abandoning its pledge to work for Papuan independence.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Send the unemployed home, archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, May 20, 2012 p 6. May 28, 2012

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Archbishop David Vunagi

The Archbishop of  Melanesia has urged the government of the Solomon Islands to halt the influx of rural villagers to the country’s capital Honiara saying there is neither work nor a place for them to live. The lack of opportunity has led to a sharp jump in crime, Archbishop David Vunagi told Radio Australia on 25 April 2012. He believed the capital was experiencing a spike in crime because of “the struggle to survive.”

“As long as we continue to have people who are doing nothing in Honiara, this is where all this criminal activity is beginning to develop; stealing, shoplifting, even snatching people’s bags as they walk past, all these things. And even worse, even wounding and killing,” the archbishop said.

“That’s why I think maybe these are people who are supposed to go back to the rural areas and use the subsistence lifestyle…where they can fish, they can grow something to eat … Coming to live in town they’re frustrated about life…they have to do something that is inappropriate for everybody,” the archbishop said.

Slowly recovering from a four year civil war and the effects of a 2007 tsunami, the Solomon Islands is classified as a less developed country with a per capita income of $600 per year.  Over 75 per cent of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture.  Described as a “failed state” by political analysts, the Solomon Islands government is assisted by a Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) with military and civilian assistance provided by Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific nations.

Archbishop Vunagi stated the church was doing what it could to help, but there were “members of the community, who escape the net of the church, and this is where I believe the government, the law of the country needs to be firm, needs to be articulate to address such issues.”

“Our country, Solomon Islands is a small country…we need to develop more human attitude and behaviour…so that our personal problems we should not push it onto others. We should not take it onto others,” the archbishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pacific bishop rejects govt charges of bribery: The Church of England Newspaper, December 9, 2011 December 10, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Anglican Bishop of Vanuatu, the Rt Rev James Ligo, has rejected charges levelled by government officials that the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) had bribed MPs to reject ratification of a treaty committing the country to membership in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Bishop Ligo, the chairman of the VCC, told reporters that it was irresponsible to accuse the churches of promoting the sin of bribery and government corruption. He called upon the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the bribery allegations, adding that he was confident the VCC would be exonerated.

Membership in the WTO has divided the Pacific nation – the former Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides — with the country’s churches leading the charge against ratification. The government has condemned the churches’ campaign, with public utilities minister Harry Iauko telling reporters the role of the church was to prepare the souls for heaven and not to preach against the WTO.

Joining the WTO, the VCC has argued, could lead to the commercial exploitation of the country by foreign capital. The country’s indigenous peoples were at risk of losing their land to speculators and foreign mining and timber corporations, the Bishop said, which would devastate Vanuatu’s cultural heritage.

Land ownership is a politically fraught issue in Vanuatu, and was one of the principal issues in the run-up to independence from the UK and France in 1980, with native groups calling for the confiscation of colonial plantations.

Demonstrations in opposition to ratification of treaty organized by the VCC were blocked by the government last month on public order grounds. Prime Minister Sato Kilman then accused Bishop Ligo and the VCC of bribery after it paid allowances to opposition MPs at an anti-WTO workshop.

The minister of internal affairs, George Wells, told Radio New Zealand International that it was wrong to claim that under WTO rules foreigners would buy up the country’s land as the constitution adopted at independence in 1980 continued to be in force and permitted land ownership only by Vanuatu’s “indigenous custom owners” – the country’s native peoples.

Solomon Islands flooded by Japan tsunami: The Church of England Newspaper, April 21, 2011 p 7. April 26, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Melanesia, Church of England Newspaper, Disaster Relief.
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Bishop Naramana addressing his 2009 dicoesan synod

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Ripples from the powerful March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated North East Japan were felt over 3700 miles south in the Solomon Islands, the  Church of the Province of  Melanesia reports.

Bishop Richard Naramana of the Diocese of Ysabel reports that at approximately 2:00 am local time on March 12, tsunami waves generated by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the Isabel, Malaita, Choiseul and Central Island provinces of the Solomon Islands, seven hours after the quake rocked Japan.

The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation reported that a tribal elder Chief Johnson Leamana said the sea level rose three metres on Isabel and swept inland.  In a letter to his companion Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Bishop Naramana said “it was a fearful experience having to be awaken at night in panic, carrying children, shouting to each other ‘ are you alright?’ to each other in the dark; being swept away by the high wave.”

The bishop reported that the cost of the damages to the diocesan offices was approximately £23,000.  “I am praying as to how we will recover the damages done to the Diocese by the recent Tsunami. On the next day as I walked around the diocesan area, I shed tears as how I will rebuild the Diocese from the damages.”

“Here is but just a brief story of the tsunami that has affected the diocesan area,” the bishop wrote.

“There are homes which were completely destroyed and there are families in Buala, Maglau, Nareabu and around the diocese where they have lost everything. Their houses were completely destroyed by the waves.”

“The effect of the recent Tsunami was great,” he said, but thanked God that “nobody lost their lives” in the Solomon Islands from the tragedy.

‘Return to tradition’ is the watchword for new Pacific bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Feb 25, 2011 p 7. March 1, 2011

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Archbishop David Vunagi (left) and Bishop Ben Seka (right) at Bishop Seka's consecration as Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The new bishop of the Central Solomon Islands has called for Anglicans to return to the traditional teachings of the Church, rejecting innovations in doctrine and discipline made abroad by some factions within the Anglican Communion as well as ridding the church of local syncretistic customs that were foreign to the Gospel.

Speaking at his consecration on Feb 20 at Christ the King Cathedral on the island of Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, Bishop Ben Seka said his episcopacy would focus on four areas.  Of primary importance was teaching the traditional faith of the Church, the new bishop said, followed by clergy training, economic development, and building closer ties with government leaders, local chiefs and other churches.

“But what I wish not to happen to the church is to see the influences of government in church,” Bishop Seka said, according to an account of his consecration published by the Solomon Star newspaper.

The new bishop was educated at the Melbourne College of Divinity, the Pacific Theological College in Fiji and Bishop Patteson Theological College in the Solomon Islands.  Prior to his election as bishop he served as principal of Bishop Patteson Theological College, the provinces clergy training school.

Bishop Seka replaces Bishop Charles Koete, who resigned last year following a conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Archbishop warns MPs that anarchy awaits the Solomon Islands: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 17, 2010 p 6 September 18, 2010

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Archbishop David Vunagi of Melanesia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Archbishop of Melanesia has commissioned the new parliament of the Solomon Islands at a memorial service at St. Barnabas’ Cathedral in Honiara.

Preaching on the theme “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14) Archbishop David Vunagi on Sept 12 called upon the 49 members of Parliament to put the nation’s interests above regional and tribal concerns.  He warned the new MPs the country risked sliding back into anarchy if they could not work together.

On Aug 4 the Central Pacific island nation elected a new parliament, and on Aug 27 the MPs concluded three weeks of political deal making to elect veteran politician Danny Philip as prime minister by a vote of 26 to 23.

Political instability has bedeviled the Solomon Islands in recent years, leading to the deployment in 2003 of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).  Hundreds of soldiers, police and civil servants have been brought into the Solomon Islands from the Pacific to rebuild the country’s social and political infrastructure, which was nearly destroyed by tribal disputes.

While the new prime minister has pledged to work with RAMSI, he has also promised to introduce a “forgiveness bill,” granting amnesty for crimes committed during the “tension” years of 1998 to 2003 when immigrants from Malaita to the main island of Guadalcanal fought local islanders.  Wars among the rival militias led the collapse of the central government, and prompted intervention from Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific countries.

The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation reported that Mr. Philip told supporters he would not expel RAMSI, but has promised to review its mission, prompting concerns the Solomon Islands could once again descend into anarchy.  The composition of the new government has also fueled concerns with the former leader of the Malaita Eagle Forces (MEF) militia, joining backing Mr. Philip.  Jimmy “Rasta” Lusibaea, who was released from prison in 2007 after serving a four-year term of imprisonment, was elected MP for North Malaita, and is a member of the new prime minister’s coalition.

In his charge to the new MPs, Archbishop Vunagi urged government and opposition to work together to avoid the mistakes of the past, and transform the Solomon Islands for the benefit of all its people.

Drink-driving bishop resigns: The Church of England Newspaper, May 14, 2010 p 6. May 22, 2010

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Archbishop David Vunagi of Melanesia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Melanesian bishop convicted of drink-driving in March, has resigned.  Last week the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Rev. David Vunagi said that after meeting with the House of Bishops on May 5, the Rt. Rev. Charles Koete handed in his resignation as Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands.

In March the Tulagi magistrate’s court fined Bishop Koete £25 and bound him over to keep the peace after he pled guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving without a licence.

On Jan 1, Bishop Koete drove his diocesan-owned vehicle in the sea after missing a curve in the road.  The bishop had been hosting a New Year’s Day party at his home, and had left the party to restock the bar.  No one was injured in the crash, which occurred as the bishop was returning to the party with more beer.

On April 14, Archbishop Vunagi said he had given Bishop Koete formal notice that he would be brought up on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.

Rather than contest the charge, Bishop Koete gave the House of Bishops a letter submitting a request to take early retirement, effective May 31, 2010.

The bishop was contrite, writing “I apologise to you, the Church of Melanesia, the Anglican Communion and all Christian people.  It is my prayer that we shall continue to work together in peace and harmony.”

In a statement released to the media, Archbishop Vunagi said the House of Bishops had granted Bishop Koete’s request.  He added “I wish to sincerely thank Bishop Charles for choosing to take the honourable way to request for an early retirement other than allowing the processes of the Church to make a decision for him.”

Bishop to be investigated for misconduct, following drink-driving conviction: The Church of England Newspaper, April 23, 2010 p 8. May 1, 2010

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Bishop Charles Koete

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Melanesia has instituted disciplinary proceedings against the Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands following his conviction for drink-driving.

In a statement published by the Solomon Star on April 15, the church’s primate Archbishop David Vunagi said that upon the advice of the provincial chancellor “disciplinary proceeding against Bishop Charles Koete” had been instituted.

Last month the Tulagi magistrate’s court fined Bishop Koete £25 and bound him over to keep the peace after he pled guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving without a licence.

On Jan 1, Bishop Koete drove his diocesan-owned vehicle into the sea after missing a curve in the road.  The bishop had been hosting a New Year’s Day party at his home, and had left the party to  restock the bar.  No one was injured in the crash, which occurred as the bishop was returning to the party with more beer.

On April 14, Archbishop Vunagi said he had given Bishop Koete formal notice that he would be brought up on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.  Under Title C of the church’s disciplinary canons, the bishop must offer a written explanation of his conduct, and if the archbishop finds there is a prima facie case against him, the matter will be forwarded to the House of Bishops for trial.

Bishop Koete has been asked to reply to the charges by April 16.  Archbishop Vunagi stated he would “then need to have another private discussion with him and depending on the outcome of our discussion, the matter will then be referred to the Council of Bishops.”

The bishop has disputed  the facts alleged in the prosecutor’s statement, but conceded he had plead guilty to the charge.

No action is expected, however, until Archbishop Vunagi’s return from Singapore, where he will be attending the Global South conference at St. Andrew’s Cathedral from April 19-23.

“Since disciplinary proceeding has already been initiated, we must all allow that process to take its course,” the archbishop said.

Bishop fined £25 for drink-driving: The Church of England Newspaper, April 16, 2010 p 8. April 22, 2010

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Bishop Charles Koete of the Central Solomon Islands

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

A Melanesian bishop has been fined £25 and bound over to keep the peace after a magistrate found him guilty of driving while intoxicated.

Whilst driving home from a New Years day party, the Rt. Rev. Charles Koete, Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands drove his truck into the ocean.  After being pulled from the sea, the bishop was charged with driving under the influence and driving without a licence.

At a hearing before the Tulagi Magistrates Court last month, the police presented evidence that the Bishop, his son, and a group of friends were celebrating New Years day with a party at the bishop’s home.

When the alcohol ran out, the bishop’s son offered to purchase more.  The bishop declined this suggestion, believing his son was intoxicated.  Other guests at the party attempted to dissuade the him, but Bishop Koete insisted that he was capable of driving to the store.

Whilst driving back from the liquor store, the court heard evidence that the bishop’s pickup truck weaved from side to side on the road.  He failed to navigate a curve and ended up in the sea.

The bishop pled guilty as charged, however the court discharged Bishop Koete with a fine and a warning.  The magistrate stated he was inclined towards leniency as the bishop had admitted his mistake, now possessed a driver’s licence, and was a clergyman.

The Solomon Star newspaper reported the bishop has the option of spending 30 days in jail if he declines to pay the fine.

Dr. Tutu launches a new Truth Commission: CEN 5.27.09 p 8. June 2, 2009

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Nobel laureate and former Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu has inaugurated a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Solomon Islands.

At a ceremony held April 29 in a football stadium in the Pacific nation’s capital of Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal, Archbishop Tutu said there were “many places around the world where there is conflict, but after a while peace comes. We in South Africa just want to say to you, if it can happen in our country, it can and will happen here.”

Between 1997 and 2003 civil authority collapsed in the Solomon Islands and more than 100 people were killed and 20,000 driven from their homes by fighting between ethnic and criminal gangs from the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita.

In 2003 Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific states intervened at the request of the Solomon Islands government and formed the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to restore law and order.

The government of Australia has agreed to underwrite the costs of the five-member commission, which include Dr. Sam Ata, the Dean of Honiara. The commission has a mandate to examine the underlying causes of the conflict and is expected to release its findings in a year.

Prime Minister Derek Sikua told a national radio audience the “The launching of the Commission is a vital part of the efforts as Solomon Islands continue to work towards closure of a most challenging chapter in the history of the country, when disputes led to conflict and conflict erupted into violence between communities.”

The prime minister also thanked the archbishop for his support in kicking off the Truth and Reconciliation process. “Archbishop Tutu is an advocate for human dignity whose tireless efforts have helped millions of people around the world. His presence here this week will inspire Solomon Islanders to help to heal old wounds caused by the violence and civil unrest. It represents a turning point in our efforts to move away from bitterness and resentment, and to create a shared future as a unified nation.”

Sam Iduri, the Minister for National Reconciliation and Unity, said Archbishop Tutu had brought “us confidence and hope. We know that we are not alone in confronting our past.”

Militant threat in Pacific island: CEN 5.01.09 p 8. May 5, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Melanesia, Church of England Newspaper, Islam.
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Militant Islam poses a threat to social stability in the Solomon Islands, the Bishop of Malaita tells The Church of England Newspaper. Muslim missionaries funded by Malaysian and Saudi Islamist groups have led to heightened tensions in the South Pacific nation, which erupted in violence in December after a Muslim leader attacked an Anglican priest.

On Dec 16, the Rev. James Utamaesia was beaten by Jack Rade, leader of the Muslim League Community of East Malaita. Provincial Police Commander David Diosi told the Solomon Star Rade had threatened to cut off Fr. Utamaesia’s head and “destroy anyone who goes against the will” of the Muslim League.

The attack was allegedly in retaliation for Anglican youths having throne stones at a Muslim League truck, police said.

On Jan 5, Malaita Bishop Sam Sahu met with Muslim leaders and urged them to turn over Rade to the police to forestall retaliation or communal violence. Muslim community leaders agreed to surrender Rade to the police and discussed the rising tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities.

The bishop said although the meeting was productive, there were disagreements on certain issues that were discussed, such as “Who is Jesus?”

Bishop Sahu told CEN that “at the moment relations between the Muslim followers and the Anglican community on Malaita are fine” in the wake of the interfaith talks. “We agreed to respect each other and to ask our members to remain calm while we deal with the situation on the ground.”

However, “the form of Muslim religion we are experiencing on Malaita tends to be aggressive, militant, in nature,” Bishop Sahu said.

“The Christian churches and the Government must be quick to realise that that Islam in the Solomon Islands and on Malaita in particular, has a capacity for thinking strategically, acting structurally and working towards ‘conversion’ of Christians and non-Christians to Allah and the Muslim faith.”

“They enter this country, as they do in other developing countries, in the name of business and development, using money from the rich Arab world, only to spread Islam. As a church leader I can speak for many people on Malaita and the Solomon Islands as a whole: We want to remain as a Christian country; we can accommodate moderate Muslims but not militant Muslims,” Bishop Sahu said.

Melanesia to be renamed: CEN 2.06.09 p 6. February 11, 2009

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Delegates to the 12th General Synod of the Church of the Province of Melanesia have voted to rename their province the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Meeting at St. Nicholas High School in Honiara on the island of Guadalcanal on Nov 8, delegates from the church’s 8 dioceses adopted the constitutional amendment with the aim of affirming the province’s membership in the wider Anglican Communion.

Other decisions taken at the meeting include changes to the composition and structures of various church boards, regulations governing the emoluments of non-stipendiary clergy, and the formation of a Commission on Justice, Reconciliation and Peace.

Plagued by a decade of social and political unrest, the Solomon Islands needed to hear from a single voice speaking on behalf of the country’s largest Christian denomination on social justice issues, the synod concluded.

Decisions taken by the Melanesian synod take effect after each diocesan synod gives its endorsement to the bill.

Scenes from Alexandria: Melanesia February 7, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Anglican Church of Melanesia, Primates Meeting 2009.
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The Rt. Rev. Charles Koete, Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands and senior bishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia

The Rt. Rev. Charles Koete, Bishop of the Central Solomon Islands and senior bishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia

Melanesian Church prepares for election: CEN 1.09.09 p 8. January 12, 2009

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The Church of the Province of Melanesia has set a date for the election of a new Archbishop and Primate for the Anglican Church in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Drawn from the province’s 8 dioceses, the members of the Provincial Electoral Board will meet from March 3-5 at the convent of the Community of the Sisters of the Church on Guadalcanal to elect a successor to Archbishop Ellison Pogo KBE.

Archbishop Pogo stepped down from office on Dec 7 after 14 years of service as archbishop of the province upon reaching the age of mandatory retirement on his 61st birthday. Active in the affairs of the wider Anglican Communion, Archbishop Pogo served as chairman of the 2008 Lambeth Conference Design Group and in October was awarded the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams for his service to the church.

Elected Bishop of Ysabel in 1981, Archbishop Pogo was translated to the Diocese of the Central Solomon Islands in 1994 when elected archbishop, and was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire in the 2000 honours list.

On Dec 7, Archbishop Pogo presided at his final service as primate of the province at St. Barnabas’ Cathedral in Honiara. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua lauded his accomplishments as leader of the 250,000 member church saying, “Sir Ellison has left a legacy of spiritual and trustworthy leadership that is full of respect”.

The new Archbishop of Melanesia will be consecrated on May 31 at St Barnabas Cathedral.

New Zealand Minister moves to help mission trust: CEN 12.11.07 December 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Anglican Church of Melanesia, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances.
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THE DEFENCE Minister of New Zealand has introduced a private member’s bill in that country’s parliament to grant permanent tax exempt status to the Melanesian Mission Trust.

Chartered in 1862 by Bishop George Selwyn of New Zealand and Bishop John Coleridge Patteson of Melanesia, the trust’s original endowment of a 150 acre farm has grown in value to £80 million. Approximately £2.5 million is generated by the trust each year and provides almost all of the income of the Church of the Province of Melanesia in the Solomon Islands.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

New Zealand Minister moves to help mission trust

Uncertain Future for Solomon Islands: CEN 6.29.07 p 6. June 29, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Melanesia, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances.
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THE SOLOMON Islands face an uncertain future in the wake of recent political unrest and April’s Tsunami, the Anglican Bishop of Malaita, Dr Terry Brown told the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland last month.

Churches and a small but growing civil society can help the country mature into a stable self-sufficient democracy, Dr Brown (pictured) said, but it first had to overcome a number of formidable obstacles.

Uncertain future for Solomon Islands

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.