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Melanesian Messenger Online distributed by the
Church of the Province of Melanesia
Breaking barriers and building bridges
August 10, 2009

[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] When Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia The Most Rev. David Vunagi was enthroned in May this year he said in his inaugural address, one of the things the Church ought to do was to ‘break barriers and build bridges’.

This he said is to link all forms of different liberalization and the different religious institutions that exist in isolation of each other because of fragmentation. And in paving the way for the Church to address this, in a society he described as very secular, distinctively polarized, where virtues of respect obedience and humility have been lost, the Archbishop made a special visit to the people of Hograno in the Diocese of Ysabel.

Hograno has in the past 5 years underwent a very difficult time following a split within the Anglican Church. There was mass movement of people from the Anglican Church to the newly established Episcopal Church of Solomon Islands (ECOSI). Because of the high number of defectors the new church have an upper hand to the use of the Church buildings and other communal facilities. As a result many Anglican families were pushed aside, some family members within a single household were separated to join the new Church, there was bitterness and hatred and spiritual life has generally waned.

On August 2 - 3, 2009 Archbishop Vunagi visited Matatoku, Ghalatha, Kolotubi and Kolomola village’s where he celebrated Holy Communion, preached and shared in the fellowship and interact socially with the people.

At Matatoku the Archbishops delegation were caught off-guard when the villagers put on a special welcome drama portraying the life and situation that has gripped them in the last five years; a life of drunkenness, disobedience and disrespect and breakdown of values.

“The situation has in the past years been the root cause of enmity, jealousy, pride, and conflicts amongst families and communities,” Chief Levi Tabo said.
“We have tried one thing or another ourselves in an effort to find meaning of the situation we are in but that seem remote.”
Chief Tabo said the Archbishops visit is a welcoming relief.
“This visit is timely and paves the way to start a healing and recovery process physically, spiritually and mentally for us.”

Despite the hardship and difficulties the community of Ghalatha is optimistic that peace and harmony will one day be restored. Chief Appollos Manegehe said at the moment only the children are left to lead the church at Galatha. As such any real and tangible development is far from being achieved. Their incomplete worship house in particular speaks volume of the situation they are left in and plead to the Church to assist.

The people of Kolotubi have also expressed a strong desire to turn the situation around. Chief Johnson Leamana said the situation has been dragging on for so long and its time the community leaders and the church stand up to find solutions to end it.
“We call on the church to help us in starting a reconciliation and dialogue process,” he said.

For Kolomola what should have been a brief visit lasted a whole afternoon with a Holy Eucharist and a special forum. At the forum everyone was given the opportunity to ask questions, make comments, share and freely express their feelings about the situation. Kolomola is one of the villages whose Anglican followers remain intact and faithful to the Anglican faith but not so with two of its highland neighbors; Koge and Siligodu villages. Koge to date according to reports revealed to the Archbishop and his delegation, those who have returned now made up 40 percent while for Siligodu those who have defected retained 30 percent. They are either with the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Orthodox (AOC). AOC is a split within the Episcopal Church. For the Highlands district as a whole 90 percent of the defected Anglicans have now returned to their mother Church. This is an increase of 25 percent since 2007 it was revealed.

Leaders of the affected communities have now realized that this problem is taking them nowhere and are pushing for reconciliation and called on the Church to assist where there is a need for them to come in.

Archbishop David Vunagi as head of the Anglican Church, said he is happy to learn that despite all the challenges and difficulties people remain faithful and strong to their beliefs.

“My mission is purposely to be with you to see what the situation is like and to give us an opportunity to share together our concerns and to listen to each other and work out how best we can both resolve the issue.”

The Archbishop said the Church is committed to resolving this issue.

“I assure you that the Anglican Church will directly participate in initiatives to start reconciliation work in order to restore peace and harmony in our communities in Hograno.We need to build bridges but the first step of this process is to break down barriers.”

Archbishop Vunagi said he is happy to hear that they remain faithful to the Anglican Church. “I encourage you to remain strong and faithful to the teachings, traditions and ethos of the Church. If our faith is not deeply rooted then we can easily be carried away by the winds, sea and currents.”

The young generation of Hograno he said must also be properly nurtured, guided and encouraged to live by the good Christian teachings and principles.

The Archbishop expressed joy and happiness in the way he and his delegation were welcomed and assured them of his prayers. The visit has indeed brought relief as shown through the reception and the many activities and programmes staged for the delegation. The people are now looking forward to the day when there is reconciliation and the return of the good old life they once cherished.