Very early morning on Wednesday, 2 June , a small group of people entered Christ the King Cathedral, Fiu Village, Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands, piled up all the altar furniture, vestments, books and other sacred objects in front of the altar and set fire to them all. The resulting fire caused extensive damage to the altar and furnishings but did not damage the main structure of the church. Parishioners noticed the fire and quickly put it out.
Those responsible left a signed letter. A member of a religious sect in a nearby village has taken responsibility for the fire, claiming that he was acting under instructions from God. The new group is espousing the restoration of Malaita Law, which it associates with the Ten Commandments. The group rejects the authority of the government.
The police are detaining the self-confessed suspect and it is hoped that they will arrest him and others responsible. The group has threatened to destroy all the Anglican churches in Fiu Parish.
The Bishop of Malaita, the Rt Revd Terry Brown, expressed the shock and grief of the Diocese at the desecration of the Cathedral's historic altar and the loss or damage of all of its furnishings and fabric, some quite historic. The Cathedral was a memorial gift by the Sage family of Melbourne in the 1930's in memory of their missionary son, Deacon Charles Crace Sage, who died in an accident at sea in South Malaita.
"It is clear that another kind of violence, religious violence, so common in other parts of the world, has now come to Malaita", the Bishop said. "It is also clear that we still have a law and order problem. This group has been previously reported to the Police after they damaged another church building and threatened people working in their gardens on Saturdays but little action was taken".
The Bishop viewed the damage early in the morning and then went and visited the person claiming responsibility for the fire. He spoke with him until the Police arrived and took him for questioning.