Message of peace from Solomons Archbishop

Archbishop Adrian Smith says last week's riot in the Solomon Islands' Chinatown is the result of "bottled up" emotions and that many Islanders are ashamed for what had happened.

"The fact that there has been no truth and reconciliation commission means emotions are still bottled up, repressed," he says.

The Age reports that Archbishop Smith said the situation could have been worst: "We lost buildings that can be replaced, but we did not lose people," he says. "Nobody attempted to use a firearm. Livelihoods were lost, not lives."

He notes that after the last wave of civil disorder, which turned the Solomon Islands into a killing field, some 500 people remain missing, with bodies dumped in unmarked graves.

Having lived and preached in the Solomons for 40 years, the Catholic archbishop has an understanding that defies outside convention. While condemning corruption, he says it is an intrinsic part of the Melanesian culture, because "family members look after each other".

He believes last week's riots were planned and the work of two or three criminal groups.

In churches across Honiara yesterday, the message delivered to a record turnout of the faithful was the same: refrain from violence, return stolen goods and embrace those who only a few days earlier were the hunted.

Archbishop Smith is convinced many Islanders have shame for what happened. His evidence for this comes from people openly repenting and the mysterious arrival of stolen goods on the church grounds.

As for Australia's involvement in the country, he says it needs to do more to nudge forward the "basket case" economy. Between 1500 and 2000 jobs have been erased by the destruction in Chinatown, he says.

Sectarian violence raged on the Island from 1998 to 2003. The country's Finance Department estimates that it will take 20 years of five per cent growth rates just to get the economy back to where it was in 1995.

Faithful given message of peace (The Age 24/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Church in the Solomon Islands

Economic disenchantment root cause of Solomons rioting (CathNews 20/4/06)

Churches work together for rehabilitation in the Solomon Islands (Insights 21/4/06)
Fearful Chinese ponder return to troubled home (The Age 24/4/06)

24 Apr 2006