Author: Ian Drew

Mary Sumner Day Eucharist 2022

Melanesian Visitors in Devon

9th / 10th / 16th August 2022

The Exeter Melanesia Link Group is delighted to be hosting guests from Melanesia, following the Lambeth Conference. The Rt Revd Willie Tungale, Bishop of the Diocese of Temotu and Mrs Ruth Tungale, and the Rt Revd Steven Koete from Central Solomons, will be in the diocese making a Patteson pilgrimage, visiting the sites connected to their first Bishop – John Coleridge Patteson. This is their first time in the UK, and they will be visiting Exeter Cathedral and the parish churches in Alfington, Feniton and Ottery St Mary. Our guests will attend the Mary Sumner Day Eucharist at Ottery St Mary on Tuesday 9th August at 2.30pm and the midweek Eucharist at Exeter Cathedral at 1.15pm on Wednesday 10th August. All are welcome to attend these services and meet our guests.

Mary Sumner Day Eucharist 2022

Revd Brother Nelson MBH from the Melanesian Brotherhood is also in the UK as part of the Lambeth Conference Chaplaincy team. Following the conference, Revd Br Nelson will be in Devon as a guest speaker at a Melanesian Quiet Day at Southleigh on Tuesday 16th August, along with Revd Br Clark Berge SSF. If you would like to attend the Quiet Day from 9.30am – 4.30pm, please book your place and lunch – call 01297 552307 or email office@holyford.org.

Southleigh Quiet Day
Solomon Island Dollars

Trustee Vacancy

Solomon Island Dollars

As the work and reach of the charity expands, the Melanesian Mission is looking to fill a Trustee vacancy coming up in September 2022, with a person who has a gift for fundraising.

The Fundraising Trustee will provide strategic oversight of The Melanesian Mission’s fundraising and communications campaigns, oversee fundraising and ensure it is carried out in legal, honest, and accountable ways.

The term of office is three years and the Board of Trustees meets four times a year, with two of these meetings online. For more information about this role, please contact the Hon Treasurer Steve Scoffield; steve.scoffield@mmuk.net.

DOCM Clergy undergoing covid 19 safty trainings from Solomon Islands Health personals

42 Days In Quarantine: A Personal Reflection

Revd Fr. Wilfred Kekea returned with his family from training in Fiji to Honiara at the end of last year. At the time all returning Solomon Islanders had to quarantine. Fr Wilfed’s quarantine lasted over 40 days, as unbeknown to him, his family had COVID. Here he writes about their experience –

DOCM Clergy undergoing covid 19 safty trainings from Solomon Islands Health personals
DOCM Clergy undergoing covid 19 safty trainings from Solomon Islands Health personals

Two island countries, that make up the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), enjoyed Covid free status until the beginning of 2022. The Solomon Islands succumbed in January and Vanuatu recorded its first case of community transmission in February.

My wife and I, with two of our children tested positive, with the Omicron variant upon arrival in Honiara from Fiji and we went into isolation. The community transmission in Honiara came about whilst we were still in isolation, and we witnessed at firsthand how it affected our health system.

I was asked to share some reflections from the Solomons on how the people are dealing with COVID. But then, as the 23rd recorded COVID case in the Solomons, I decided to share my personal experience. The following are extracts from my journal which I hope, give some insights on how we are coping.

Flight Day (Wednesday 22nd December 2021)

“Why are most international flights operated by the National carrier arriving in Honiara at night?” was a question prior to departure from Fiji. Upon landing I realised that it would have been very, very uncomfortable for the handful of officials whose work is to check us into the country in their PPE, on a typical Honiara afternoon.

The mandatory quarantine for all returning citizens is covered by the government of Solomon Islands.  So was the flight and the pre-departure COVID 19 Tests, which I heard was $200 per person (£20). Thank you, SIG and all responsible personnel in Suva and Honiara.

We were housed next to the Fijian soldiers who are here because of the November Honiara riots. At least there is a transition phase, as we can still the hear the Itaukei language, claps around the tanoa (kava bowl) and Fijian songs from our room.

Day 1 (Thursday 23rd December 2021)

Trying to figure out where our quarantine camp is, thanks to google maps, we are right next to the Honiara International Airport. Should have figured that out last night with the very short drive.

Xavinago (Fr Wildred’s son) had a slight fever.

No nasal swab, though we were supposed to have one today. Our personal details are collected again, by friendly Camp Management Team. Why are we giving the same information three times, prior to departure, upon arrival and in quarantine?

Day 3 (Saturday 25th December 2021)

Merry Christmas. Family eucharist this morning and we had our first swab in the afternoon. I think the health workers decided to do a collective swab, together with the passengers from Brisbane who arrived yesterday. Or maybe, the allowances get tripled on a public holiday, who knows, it is anybody’s wild guess as we were not informed of the reasons for this delay.

Day 4

Family eucharist again this morning as we remember the Holy Family on the first Sunday of Christmas.

Our results come back negative except for our youngest, Xavinago, who is 10 years old. He got a scolding from his elder sibling and mother, had to defuse. Did not hear the Prime Minister’s official announcement, but a member of the family has been officially entered onto the database as Solomon Islands COVID 19 case number 21.

Spent some time with health officials on the phone, contact tracing and repeating the same personal details that we have already given on three separate occasions. Ahh, I got it, the internet speed in the Solomons is slow.

According to the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health’s COVID19 protocols, this means that the whole family need to be swabbed again and that Xavinago will need to go into isolation. Since he is a minor, a parent will have to accompany him, so I had to get ready. In the meantime, how can we maintain social distancing or isolate a 10-year-old?

Day 5

All family members had another swab today. Transport to the Isolation Centre broke down, so I was told, but we will definitely be going tomorrow. Another day with an active case in poorly ventilated confined space; que sera sera.

Day 6 (Tuesday 28th December 2021)

Got a call on this rainy day to board the St. John’s Ambulance, donated van, with Xavi at around 10:30am but was chased back indoors by Camp Management, after five minutes of waiting for personnel in PPE to open the van.

Another call from doctor announced that Xavi, Hara and I recorded positive for COVID 19, whilst Anika and Tiva are negative. So that is why we were being chased back indoors. Our issue now is that Anika who has downs syndrome, will need her parents’ supervision. She was given the okay to come with us into isolation.

St. John’s ambulance had to make two trips to transport the four of us to the Central Field Hospital, a converted sports hall for isolation. Tiva’s independence comes a bit early, but at 15, I am confident that he can cope, living alone in quarantine.

Informed close relatives and the Archbishop of Melanesia. Though asymptomatic, with the positive test results, the day count starts all over again.

Saint Alban Parishioner taking his jab
Saint Alban Parishioner taking his jab

Day 7 (Wednesday 29th December 2021)

Introductions and isolation instructions were made over the phone yesterday. Mask up at all times, even in bed. Washing machine and dryer, only privileged Solomon Islanders have these, are provided. Linens are to be changed and washed after every three days by ourselves. At least we have some activities lined up.

Now we are getting double food packs for every meal. One is from the National Referral Kitchen and the other from our former quarantine station. The nurses are aware of this, hope they will sort it out, though we have a choice, we are wasting food since whatever food we touch or come into contact with, goes into the bin.

Our routine of eating, sleeping, sitting outdoors and personal prayer begins as we remember the Holy Innocents. At least we have a friend, another patient who travelled back from Dubai, from All Saints Parish with us in isolation.

Day 8

Today I asked a relative who lives nearby to bring an aluminum dish for steaming. She was asked by the authorities to bring a plastic dish instead. Reason – aluminum cannot be burnt in the incinerator – thus, no spoons, knives or anything metal are allowed into quarantine or isolation centres. In ignorance, I have already brought in various metallic and ceramic items including mugs, a small knife and a laptop. Does that mean that everything that is being brought into these centres will end up in the incinerator?  I do not think so.

Day 9

Each of us was given a sprayer of diluted bleach with the advice that we are to spray everywhere we go. The squishing sound of the sprayer reminds me of a leper’s bell in ancient times announcing ‘unclean, unclean’ except that today I will need a doctor’s okay to go back into the community instead of a priest’s.

Day 14 (Wednesday 5th January 2022)

Xavi had another swab today. Swab 3. A lot of fruit was sent in by different relatives, somehow, they were all inspired to send in fruits today. Now we have to find a way to get the refrigerator going as there is no power point near its location. Fortunately, the hardworking nurses provided an extension lead.  

Day 15

Xavi’s result came back still positive, next test in seven days. Not good news when we celebrate the Epiphany today. We will need three negatives for discharge.

Anika, Hara and I also had our swab this afternoon. Started noticing that something is not quite right. Our swab samples, in a small cooler, were left on the grass beside the locked gate for about three hours. There was the afternoon sun and an evening downpour, just had to get a video of this on my phone. Are the samples still okay?

Heard on the news that some of the frontliners are complaining of receiving half pay. Hmmm

Day 16 (Friday 7th January 2022)

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister made another special announcement today. The sister of the 10-year-old boy who returned from Fiji has returned a positive COVID 19 test result. Anika has entered the database as Solomon Islands COVID 19 case number 25. Why were we not informed prior to the nationwide address?

Search me my Lord, you know my heart today; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps 139:23-24)

Per COVID 19 protocols, we will now be having separate swab days. Why do we need to stick to these protocols when it will be viable to have us swabbed together since we can only be released back into the community together? I guess National Health Emergency Operating Centre still has the capacity.

Prime Minister Sogavare also announced that three persons who returned from Fiji, Xavi, Hara and I were identified with the Omicron variant, whilst the person who returned from Dubai had the Delta variant. Aha, maybe the health workers knowing that we had the Omicron, purposely left the cooler in the sun as a safety precaution.

Spent some time today on the phone responding to family and friends, assuring them that we are all asymptomatic and enjoying the food.

We – the family, also decided to use the female convenience room, as there are no other female patients, to allow the single patient with delta variant to use the male’s room.

Day 19 (Monday 10th January 2022)

Are we being given the silent treatment? There were no phone calls from the nursing station since Friday.

Then there is a call from the nursing station to tell us that their two week shift has ended, we exchanged pleasantries and well wishes. They will be able to recognize us if we meet again on the streets as they were monitoring us on the CCTV. We, on the other hand, will not be able to recognize them as the only time we saw them was from a three to five meter distance, dressed in PPE.

The new team sounded enthusiastic as they made their introductions over the phone and we had grilled drumsticks and lambchops with cassava and kumara for lunch. This is a treat by Solomon standards, though we are still hoping to get a taste of the commonest Solomon dish of boiled fish in coconut cream.  

We are now two and a half weeks in a quarantine/isolation institute. Most of our freedoms are restricted. I have noticed that some of the COVID 19 protocols enforced by the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health need to be revised.

I also noticed the fear of COVID 19 by our frontline workers. I wish I can educate them. I have helped on three occasions, families and an individual with COVID 19 in Fiji. As they cannot go out, being COVID positive and in home isolation, to shop for groceries, I went to get their money and did their shopping. Another was having trouble breathing so that I have to bring medication and fruits. No PPE was worn but basic Covid safe practices were maintained by all involved. That was during the peak of the second wave in Suva, Fiji.

As was stressed by the Prime Minister, Solomon Islands will not be able to deal with a mass community transmission. I have witnessed first-hand our health system’s incapability and will continue to advocate for vaccination.

DOCM Clergy training on Covid 19 safty
DOCM Clergy training on Covid 19 safty

Day 20 (Tuesday 11th January 2022)

As instructed, there are some areas which are restricted to us marked out by lines on the floor. Our meals are usually brought in by the nursing staff and placed on a table bordering our territory and the nurses’ territory.

A new member of staff brought in lunch and mistakenly placed it on a table in the restricted area at around 1:45pm. After a couple of polite but angry phone calls, we had lunch at 3:30pm. Another nursing staff profusely apologized for the mistake and unfortunately, received a piece of my mind. Lord, we pray for patience and understanding.

Xavinago had another swab later in the afternoon.

Day 22 (Thursday 13th January 2022)

Swab day for Hara and I, we also had boiled fish in coconut milk for lunch. Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings.

Day 25 (Sunday 16th January 2022)

In the ACoM cycle of prayer this week, we are asked to pray for our schools and colleges as they anticipate the beginning of a new academic year. Reminds me that I have not yet arranged any school for the children, but I put my trust in God for directions.

A close friend in Brisbane who went into home isolation a week after us just messaged me to say that he is now visiting relatives in Adelaide. Lord, inspire persons responsible to keep abreast with current findings. Solomon Islands COVID 19 protocols definitely need revision.

Swab day for Anika. Something is definitely not right, or something is happening in Honiara that we are not aware of. We have not been contacted by health authorities to let us know of our swab results. We are only aware of our status during a talkback show today on the national broadcaster stating that we are asymptomatic but will still need three negative test results before discharge.

Saint Alban MU member during vaccination at Saint Alban Parish
Saint Alban MU member during vaccination at Saint Alban Parish

Day 27 (Tuesday 18th January 2022)

We are still waiting for our results, which is not normal as we usually have them the day after swabs. There are rumours, from calls to wantoks and on social media, that there is now suspected community transmission in Honiara. The Prime Minister in his address this afternoon stated that there are two new cases, a foreign national and a local. A call from the nurse station at 11pm advised us to remain in our cubicles as a new patient was being brought in. Patient finally arrived at midnight and hearing him talking to the nurses in pidgin, can tell that this is the first identified case of local transmission.

Day 28

The foreign national was brought into the Central Field Hospital.

Day 29 (Thursday 20th January 2022)

Transferred to another quarantine facility, Honiara Hotel. At least we are not being monitored 24/7 on CCTV. Prime Minister announced that there is now community transmission with 48 persons tested positive.

Staff at the Central Field Hospital bid us farewell and told us that they are expecting 11 new patients this evening. As they were not able to listen to the PM’s announcement, they were quite shocked when I informed them. Looking at social media feeds, it is as if someone just punched the panic button for Honiara City.

Today is also supposed to be our swab day but postponed for Sunday. Lab at the National Referral is now feeling the pressure.

Day 34 (Tuesday 25th January 2022)

The past days after the announcement of community transmission have seen a huge turnout for vaccination at vaccination sites. Some who openly spoke against vaccination were seen in the queue for vaccination. A comparison to Paul’s conversion as we remember the Biblical event today. 

Honiara goes into a four-day lockdown as of 6pm today and we are still waiting for our final swab. Medical authorities advise the public in Honiara to go into home isolation if they have flu like symptoms and to remain in isolation for a further three days once recovered, approximately two weeks. A typical home in Honiara may house three generations with shared kitchen, shower room and toilet. I cannot imagine how it will be possible to isolate someone in such an environment. The length of time as advised makes me question why we have been in isolation for almost a month. Are we still a threat to the Solomons? I guess the country cannot afford to have another variant spreading in the community.

Friends working as frontliners phoned asking for prayers as they are tested positive and go into isolation. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Others knowing that we tested positive and are in isolation, gave numbers of loved ones, most of whom were not vaccinated, who are tested positive so that I can call them to give assurance and hope.

Day 35 (Wednesday 26th January 2022)

Finally, the swab team arrived for testing.

Day 37 (Friday 28th January 2022)

Received an SMS from the Head Clinician at the National Referral Hospital informing us that we are recommended to NHEOC for discharge tomorrow. We will be two days short of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.

Day 40 (Monday 31st January 2022)

We are still at the Honiara Hotel and our health system is now feeling the toll. Staff shortages as most frontliners are tested positive. There is also a back log of swab samples at the lab and many sick patients at National referral Hospital tested positive.

Started ringing around enquiring about our discharge and learned that all frontliners who are working had to take extra shifts. I pray for those who are sick, the nurses, doctors, hospital staff and care givers in the homes. Is this just the beginning or are we now at the peak?

Finally, the NHEOC Incident Controller called in the afternoon to say that someone will be coming to discharge us tomorrow. Being well versed with the Solomon cultural etiquette, ‘tomorrow’ can be any time from the next day to any day in the future.

Someone also called today for confession, my first ever to be conducted through mobile phone. Welcome to the world of technology, I think this is the safest mode in this pandemic.

Day 42 (Wednesday 2nd February 2022)

At last, as we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, we are discharged. Praise God.

Catechist of St Alban Parish washing his hands at the newly installed Water taps infront of Saint Alban Parish church
Catechist of St Alban Parish washing his hands at the newly installed Water taps infront of Saint Alban Parish church

After thoughts Wednesday 16th March 2022

Looking back over the last month and a half, one can say that the faith of the people helped them during the peak of the pandemic in Honiara. People were praying for healing and protection, and where there is death in a household, faith in God brings peace and comfort.

It is also noted that with the limited resources, such as masks and hand sanitizers, people depend primarily on God’s protection whilst traditional knowledge is sought to treat ailments that are associated with the virus. To one extent, as in other parts of the world, faith for some is revealed in the return to normal practices. Whilst for others, it is to adhere to COVID safe practices with available limited resources such as frequent hand washing with soap and water, social distancing and limiting large social gatherings. Yet still, the clergy in Honiara are finding it difficult to limit church gatherings and are trying out different options that will cater for different parishes.

As I write, COVID19 has just reached the shores of Vanuatu, Omicron variant, and other islands of the Solomons (Delta Variant).

Fr. Wilfred Kekea
Anglican Church of Melanesia

Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day

Melanesian Brotherhood – April 2022 Update

The Melanesian Brotherhood commemorated the Seven Martyrs and St Marks day on April 23rd and 24th respectively at the Central Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood.

  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day
  • Melanesian Brotherhood, Seven Martyrs and St Marks Day

The celebrant for these two events was the Father of the Brotherhood, the Most Reverend Leonard Dawea. The preachers were Revd Br Nelson Bako on Seven Martyrs’ day and the Principal of BPTC Revd James Fakafu on St Marks day.

The festival day was packed with people attending the events. At Tabalia there were eight Aspirants who became Novices and three Novices being made professed Brothers.

In other sections of the Melanesian Brotherhood there were also Novices being admitted into the order of the Melanesian Brotherhood. This year 2022, there were 80 Aspirants who have been admitted as first year Novices.

Revd Br NelsonSecretary to MBH

Coffee Mornings Cocoa Nights

Coffee Mornings and Cocoa Nights

Coffee Mornings Cocoa Nights

Our online supporter events have been running monthly for over 18 months now and are providing a useful forum for keeping in touch with our sisters and brothers in Melanesia.

Some months we have guest speakers from Melanesia and at other time, MMUK’s Executive Officer Katie Drew, shares news from the region and answers supporters’ questions. We try to run two time slots each month at 10am and repeating the session again at 7pm on the same day, keeping the sessions to an hour, and finishing in prayer.

Two recent sessions were recorded and can be watched here –

Climate Action for Melanesia – Marie Schlenker
Interview with the Archbishop of Melanesia – April 2022

The next MMUK online event will be on Monday 23rd May at 10am and 7pm GMT. Please contact the charity to register your place.

As well as the MMUK hosted events, UK parishes and Associates and Companions to the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters have also been hosting regular events. If you would like to host an online event with guest from Melanesia, please contact the charity.

Lambeth Conference 2022

Lambeth Conference & Festival Day 2022

Lambeth Conference 2022

We are delighted to be welcoming the Archbishop of Melanesia, and some of the Melanesian Bishops and their wives to the Lambeth Conference from 26th July to 8th August. Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury, the 15th Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs.

With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.

The Archbishop of Canterbury writes –

“It’s my prayer that, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Lambeth Conference will reinvigorate the Communion with the vision and resources to bring the transforming love of Jesus Christ to every level of society across the world. It will be a time of addressing hurts and concerns; of deepening existing relationships and building new ones; of grappling with issues that face the Church and the world. We will listen to each other; we will seek God’s wisdom to find ways to walk together; we will build each other up as leaders.”

After the Conference, our guests will make visits to various dioceses, meeting supporters and friends. For some of the Bishops and wives, this will be their first visit to the UK. The programme of visits will be announced in June.

MMUK Festival Day

St Martin in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square
St Martin in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square

On Saturday 13th August Archbishop Leonard, his Bishops and their wives will be the guests of honour at MMUK’s Festival Day at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square London. The day will begin with a Eucharist at 11am in the church, followed by a bookable lunch and presentations in the afternoon from our guests. Please register your place with the charity.

The charity’s AGM will be held online on Monday 19th September at 7pm

Register your place with the charity

Melanesian Spirituality part of the Lambeth Chaplaincy

Revd Sr Veronica CSC, Solomons Provincial Sister of the Community of the Sisters of the Church and Revd Br Nelson, Secretary to the Melanesian Brothers, will be part of the Lambeth Chaplaincy Team. Both Sr Veronica and Br Nelson have been part of the Lambeth preparations for the last few years and contributed to Listening Together – Global Anglican Perspectives on Renewal of Prayer & the Religious Life, one of the Conference’s preparatory books.

We are hoping that Sr Veronica and Br Nelson will also have time after the conference to make some visits before returning to Solomon Islands.  

Lambeth Chaplaincy Team
Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe

Voices from Melanesia – Rt Revd Benedict Loe, Bishop of Guadalcanal

Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe
Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe

In March, MMUK Trustee Revd John Pinder interviewed the Bishop of Guadalcanal –

First of all, I was very sad at the death of your parents from covid. That must have been very hard for you.
Thank you

Have you and Charity had covid yourselves?
No we have been free, but mum and dad lived at home.

Where is home?
Gnalimera, next to the old site of Selwyn College.

I know it well.  When we started Selwyn College in 1970 there were no ablution blocks and we all had to wash in the Nalimbu River. The people at Gnalimera were not very happy about this because they were downstream! But that was before you were born!
I think so yes.

Can you tell me now what the situation is with covid?
The official number of cases is declining but I think that is because people are not testing. Officially it’s about 10,000 cases. The current death toll is 128, but that’s mostly vulnerable people with pre-existing medical conditions. In January and February people were panicking and wearing masks, but now no one is wearing a mask anymore. Well you know Melanesians – they tend to rely on custom medicines to treat the sickness. At the height of the outbreak, all the people in my village had flu and coughs but it was the elderly and vulnerable like my parents who were most at risk. People are now complacent and too relaxed with the protocols. It’s scary. There are still patients at the hospital in Honiara and most of the medical staff have covid. The numbers at the hospital are not great because most of the people with covid stay in the villages. One of my priests had died, but the parents would not allow him to be tested because of the stigma. Covid has spread to the provinces and Ysabel and Makira are reporting increasing numbers, but so far there are no cases in Temotu Province (the outer Eastern Islands).

Let’s hope that Temotu remains covid free because if it reaches Anuta and Tikopia it will be really serious.

I was reading yesterday the journal of the acting mission secretary and he was very frustrated with all the quarantine regulations and testing when he and his family arrived from Fiji just before Christmas. But I can understand it was a time of great anxiety and confusion.

Am I right in thinking your diocese does not cover Honiara?
That’s right. Honiara from White River to Lunga is looked after by the Archbishop.

You may know my very good friend Father Jim Nolan who is at the Catholic Catechist Centre.
Oh yes we were both part of the visitation team for the Sisters of the Church a few months ago and during that time he was telling me stories about the early days at Selwyn College when you were both on the staff.

Are you also responsible for the Christian Care Centre?
They are mostly responsible for their own ministry so I haven’t had much to do with them so far.

How long have you been Bishop of Guadalcanal now?
Just one year. I was consecrated in February last year.

Tell me a bit about your background.
As I’ve said, I come from Guadalcanal and my parents were both teachers. I went to Selwyn College and after Form 5 I was due to study at the Solomon Islands National University, but that was the time of the troubles and as a Guadalcanal man it was felt it was not safe for me to be in Honiara so I stayed at home until the year 2000 when a priest encouraged me to apply for theological training at Kohimarama. I gained my Diploma in 2004 and was priested in 2005 at Gnalimera.

That must have been quite an occasion.
Yes we had a big feast.  It was all very special. In 2007 Archbishop Ellison encouraged me to return to Kohi to study for a degree. I was in Vura parish in Honiara for two years and then went to St.John’s Auckland for a master’s degree in ministry at Otago, but I stayed in residence at St.John’s. 

Yes I think you would have found it very cold in Otago.
Yes even summertime in Auckland was cold for us. I graduated in 2012 and was posted as a member of staff at Bishop Patteson Theological College.

Most Revd Leonard Dawea & The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe
Most Revd Leonard Dawea & The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe

We know a lot of things have been going on in Honiara over the last few months. What’s the situation like there now?
So many things cropped up in a short period of time. You heard about the riots of course. And the people were not happy about some of the decisions the government had made, so they took the law into their own hands.  As many people say, there is no idea of a peaceful protest in the vocabulary of Solomon Islands. Life is tough and challenging with so many young people unemployed, so rioting happens easily and quickly. Then we were overtaken by covid and people were looking for blame. It was first said it arrived from Papua New Guinea via Lord Howe Ontong Java. Then it was said it spread from those coming back from overseas who broke quarantine regulations; others say it came with the regional police from Australia and Fiji who came in after the riots. Things have now settled down and people live from day to day. Things are gradually opening up again with people returning to their offices, but the schools are still closed. They are hoping schools will reopen next month but we don’t know how it will go.

Yes in this country there is still a lot of covid and the schools especially are struggling because many of the teachers have covid. We were always afraid that if covid came to Solomon Islands, it would be serious because Melanesian culture would cope with things like social distancing.

I guess over the last few months it hasn’t been possible for you to tour your diocese.
I did manage to complete my first tour of the diocese by September last year. I managed to get round the whole diocese.

How are things on the Weather Coast these days? Have they recovered from the troubles?
Not quite. There are still examples of trauma among the people of the Weather Coast. There are still some brutal killings and torture happening.  Some people are still continuing with old feuds and disputes.  The children of some of those who were killed in the past are still seeking revenge. The attitude of Guadalcanal people is still affected by past events and people are quick to seize knives if an argument breaks out. The Church of Melanesia is trying to bring reconciliation between groups.

Yes in this country we have set aside some money to support reconciliation efforts, but I realise that has been hampered by covid. We are planning to establish and inaugurate a memorial on the Weather Coast in the place where the seven Melanesian brothers were martyred and there will be a reconciliation ceremony as part of that.

That’s good to hear. What about the palm oil plantations? Are they in production again?
Yes they managed to keep production going even during the covid lock down and a doctor was seconded to try and keep the workers in good health.

I know that during the troubles, most of the workers from Malaita were sent away, so now, where are the workers from?
Most of them are now from Makira or Ysabel.

That’s interesting. I want to move on to ask you about Lambeth.  I know you have been able to meet some of your fellow bishops online from across the communion, as part of the preparations for Lambeth.
Yes unfortunately I missed most of those sessions because I was on tour, but I know the other bishops locally found them interesting and helpful.

I think one of the main themes of the conference will be the environment and you will be able to take to the conference your own experiences of the Pacific with rising sea levels and increasing cyclones. MMUK has really been working hard to promote your local climate observatories and in your diocese there is one at Red Beach and one at Selwyn College and we really hope that that work will continue because it’s very important to keep gathering the data.

We were very disappointed that all the bishops will have to go straight to Canterbury from the airport without any opportunity to tour the UK before the Lambeth conference. Obviously they don’t want half the bishops to arrive at Canterbury testing positive for covid, but it now looks as if there will be some opportunity after the conference for us all to meet up.
Unfortunately some of the wives have decided not to come because they are worried about covid and they want to look after their children. Also my wife Charity, is working as a nurse and she feels she is needed back at the National Referral Hospital.

It looks as if we shall all be able to meet up in London after the conference and have a festival at St. Martin in the Fields. It’s been really good having this zoom with you today and I hope we can have another one nearer to Lambeth when you can update us. Thank you Bishop. We wish you every blessing from the UK.

John Pinder