Melanesian brothers at Tabalia
Honiara, Solomon Islands
Members of an Anglican religious community who heroically stood between warring factions in the Solomon Islands and went on to monitor the peace process on the islands of Malaita and Guadalcanal, have received one of the country’s highest honours.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands, has awarded the Solomon Islands Medal to 22 members of the Melanesian Brotherhood, Society of St. Francis and their chaplain.
The award was made during Solomon Islands Independence Honours and Awards ceremony as part of country’s 23rd independence anniversary celebrations on July 6th. When islanders from Malaita and Guadalcanal turned against one another, the Melanesian Brothers worked first to keep them from harming each other, then to re-establish peace, and then later at reconciliation.
Last May, civic officials and police officers who took sides in the conflict, credited the Brothers for reducing the potential death toll and destruction of property. The ethnic crisis claimed about 100 lives in the country of about 400,000.
The brothers were visited in May by the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, who told them “you are the largest and most vibrant religious community in the Anglican Communion.”
The Brothers are credited with helping to bring the two warring blocs to the negotiating table, which led to the signing of the Townsville peace agreement last October. The high regard local people have for the Church of Melanesia was reflected by the fact that Archbishop Ellison Pogo, the archbishop of Melanesia, was the only member of civil society invited to the signing.