Violence forces suspension of classes

By on October 1, 2000

Civil unrest and violence that has been escalating for months has forced the suspension of classes at Bishop Patteson Theological College on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

The college’s board of governors made the decision to cancel fall classes late this summer and also rejected a plan that would have seen the college temporarily move its classes for senior students to the capital, Honiara.

The colleges houses about 200 students and family members and more than a dozen faculty and staff.

The Canadian Anglican church has a long association with Bishop Patteson College. Most recently, Lorna Reevely of the Diocese of Toronto took up a Volunteers in Mission posting there to serve as librarian and archivist.

Earlier this summer, Ms. Reevely left the college and moved to Airahu Rural Training Centre on the nearby island of Malaita, after concern was expressed for her safety. She has been teaching home economics.

The Solomon Islands have been in turmoil since June when ethnic unrest between militant factions from Malaita and from Guadalcanal led to a coup. Violence has flared up regularly since then, despite the signing of several peace accords, none of which has held up for very long.

In a letter to the national office last August Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita said: “The ceasefire is quite fragile, especially on west Guadalcanal. There has been no damage to (the college) but the situation is tense. It would not be safe for Malaita students or staff. Honiara was considered as a venue for the fourth-year students to finish off their studies, but with the damaged Honiara water supply, it is not now realistic.”

Bishop Brown is a former Asia-Pacific mission co-ordinator for the Canadian church.

Previous letters by Bishop Brown during the summer have said that violence and the coup have led to a collapse of the Solomon Islands economy and to shortages in food and supplies. Malaita has been largely isolated since the coup, which led to disruptions in telephone, postal and air services.

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