The strength of Christianity in the Pacific Islands. The Pacific was one of the first areas to be evangelized in the modern Protestant missionary era. By the end of the 19th Century, most of the Pacific region had become Christian through the sacrificial labours of early LMS (London Missionary Society), Methodist, Anglican and Pacific Islander missionaries. Missionary casualties were high through disease, violent death and cannibalism, but great people movements brought whole peoples and islands to Christianity. Praise God for the continued legacy of their work, and for continued spiritual life to the churches they planted.
Renewal of the Pacific Islands vision for mission and prayer. The South Pacific Prayer Assembly and Deep Sea Canoe Movement are recapturing this great 19th Century heritage. In recent years, New Zealand has had a good record in sending out missionaries. Other nations such as Fiji and PNG are seeing more significant sending movements occur.
Unrest and violence have occurred in several locations for ethnic, economic, political and socio-cultural reasons. Fiji – with its split between indigenous Fijians and the large ethnic Indian population and its history of coups – remains the most obvious example. But Bougainville, other parts of PNG and the Solomon Islands have seen upheaval in the not too distant past. Tribalized culture, limited resources and some resentment against the influence of Western and Asian powers mean that a number of islands could witness similar kinds of upheaval in the near future.
A large-scale demographic shift is occurring across the region. Migration is happening on an unprecedented scale. Many Pacific Island ethnicities have a larger population in diaspora than in their traditional homeland. The main contributing factors are:
- Demographic. As Australia and New Zealand deal with ageing populations and low fertility rates (at least among the majority Caucasian population), the Pacific Islands have high fertility rates and a burgeoning young population.
- Economic. Vast disparity between the haves and have-nots, lack of opportunity in the Pacific Islands and the need to fill current and future employment gaps in wealthy nations (especially Australia/New Zealand) pull many Islanders away from their traditional homelands.
The health and viability of many isolated island communities are threatened by modernity and globalization, large-scale unemployment, heavy dependence on aid, isolation from health, education and modern consumer goods as well as prohibitive costs of inter-island travel. The replacement of a subsistence economy, driven by agriculture and fishing, with a cash economy pushes many men abroad to find work, generates a brain (and muscle) drain and introduces a changed diet that, in turn, intensifies already existing health issues.
Increasing investment, involvement and immigration from Pacific Rim nations will profoundly shape the Pacific's future. China in particular but also Japan, Korea and Taiwan have significant stakes in the natural, material and human resources of the Pacific islands, stakes that will most likely grow in scale and influence.
Ethnic harmony is and will continue to be a major issue:
- Historic wrongs associated with the arrival of Europeans are being faced. Apologies and efforts at reconciliation and reparation are occurring; Australia's formal apology to its Aboriginal peoples is a major step forward. Christians must be in the forefront in doing all possible to achieve fair reconciliations and to honour cultural distinctives.
- Relations among various groups can be tense and uncertain. Flashpoints in Australia and Fiji reveal cultural and religious gulfs between the newer immigrant communities and the majority and indigenes. Relations among various Pacific Island ethnicities have not necessarily been traditionally harmonious, as the bloody pre-Christian history of the region illustrates.
- Get all of this content and daily notifications in our free mobile app. Download here ›
- Sign up for a daily e-mail that gets you the featured prayer point of the day straight to your inbox.
- This content is a curated selection of points from our book, Operation World. Find out more about it and all the rest of Our Publications ›
Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.