Six Melanesian brothers confirmed dead

Published September 1, 2003

Honiara, Solomon Islands
Six members of the Melanesian Brotherhood, an Anglican religious order, were murdered last May while they were held captive by rebel leader Harold Keke and his militia, according to police on the Solomon Islands. The news was confirmed in early August after an Australian-led intervention force arrived on the Solomons in late June. The six men had traveled to the west coast of the island of Guadalcanal in April to retrieve the body of another member of the order, Brother Nathaniel Sado, who had been killed by Keke’s forces. In a pastoral letter dated Aug. 8, Bishop Peter Fox of the diocese of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea wrote, “The brothers were put to death within a very short time of their going into the troubled area to retrieve Brother Nathaniel’s body.” Archbishop Peter Jensen of the diocese of Sydney and metropolitan of New South Wales, said in a statement that he felt “profound shock and deep grief” at the news. “The brothers’ deaths are a tremendous loss for the Melanesian Brotherhood, for the Church of Melanesia and the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea and for the whole church,” said Bishop Terry Brown, diocesan bishop of Malaita in the Solomons and a former mission worker with the Anglican Church of Canada. Since the disappearance of Brothers Robin Lindsay, Francis Tofi, Alfred Hilly, Patteson Gatu, Ini Partabatu and Tony Sirihi, conflicting reports had emerged of their whereabouts. “At one stage we were even told that the brothers had been released,” said Bishop Fox in his letter. “Sadly, these reports were all false.” The Melanesian Brotherhood has been involved in several peacemaking efforts in the Solomon Islands, which has seen fighting by various warring factions in the past few years. “We are praying for peace with justice for the people of the Solomons,” said Archbishop Jensen. At press time, Mr. Keke and two of his lieutenants had surrendered to peacekeepers. The rebel leader was charged with attempted murder, firearms possession and “running an unlawful society” and the lieutenants also face murder charges. At a hearing held in a makeshift courtroom in Honiara, Mr. Keke denied the charges, and requested the assistance of a foreign lawyer.


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