A new Adventist church building in Solomon Islands has been demolished by angry locals and the small congregation ordered to leave their island by the end of the month.
Anuta Island is an Anglican stronghold in Solomon Islands’ far eastern Temotu province. Local Adventist Selwyn Faramarama has been working on the island since last year as a Bible worker funded by Volunteers in Action (VIA) and supported by the Solomon Islands Mission (SIM) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Three people have been baptised and Mr Faramarama has been studying the Bible with five more people in preparation for baptism.
The new church building was erected with the agreement of the Adventist landowner but not, according to the Solomon Star newspaper, with the permission of local authorities.
“I’m the son of the first chief,” said Putanakipenu Arikifaka to the Solomon Star. “Although worship is a freedom on the island, what the Adventists are doing is not acceptable to our chiefly system… We told them that they can go ahead with their worship in their own homes but not to build a church on the island.”
According to Pastor Irving Vagha, who holds the portfolios of Adventist Volunteer Services and Global Mission for SIM, Anuta’s Anglican priest together with a large group of supporters demolished the church. Selwyn Faramarama is now in the capital, Honiara, where he is seeking advice and support from SIM. Church leaders have been disappointed at media reports that Anuta Adventists have now been ordered into exile from their island.
“We are chasing them out from the island,” Mr Arikifaka said to the Solomon Star. “They should listen to us while living on the island. We have our own laws. We only listen to our chiefs. We [do] not even recognise the government… we are asking all Adventist members living on the Island to… leave on any available transport that reaches the island this month.”
SIM president Pastor George Fafale is attending regional Church meetings in Fiji this week but will seek urgent meetings with Solomon Islands’ Council of Churches and Anglican national leaders upon his return.
Mr Faramarama is keen to return to Anuta to seek reconciliation. He plans to collect donations of rice and other food from Adventists in Honiara and distribute it to the Anuta chief and other islanders who are suffering food shortages after their crops were damaged by Cyclone Pam in March.
“We have sent a message to all our pastors about this and we are praying,” said Pastor Vagha. “Please ask for everyone to pray.”