Forgiveness in the Fiji Islands
Bible Class #3
Series: Hot Topics 1
When I originally compiled this class in 2012, the topic of ‘inclusivity’ was becoming a popular theme in the news and social media. The act of including others into your circle of relationships or connections as a necessity for society to progress. The following link from the UK gives an example of how this ideal has been established. While this ideal of inclusivity is certainly true, there are some sides to it that are not emphasized much, apology and forgiveness being two of them.
The subject of forgiveness has always fascinated me as the very act of forgiveness is just so supernatural. Whether it’s God’s forgiveness toward us or us forgiving others or us forgiving ourselves for our own mistakes and faults, it’s just such a deep subject.
The following story from the Fiji Islands was taken from an internet article back in 2012, unfortunately it is no longer available (that I could find). It is a good example of the importance of forgiveness in the context of inclusiveness. The article was taken from the work of David Mooney, an English freelance journalist who also works for the BBC in England
“This past summer our family had the special opportunity of visiting the Fiji Islands, and on one rainy day when the option of going to a beach didn’t look so inviting, we decided to visit the Fiji museum, which had many interesting displays on the country’s history and its people.
One display that particularly interested me was on the subject of cannibals. In the mid-1800s Fiji was known for its cannibalism and was one of the last island groups in the South Pacific to be explored and colonized because of the horror stories that circulated about the islands’ cannibals and their ferociousness. The explorers in that region avoided the islands.
It’s hard to believe today, as the Fijians are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. You only have to make the slightest eye contact in passing someone and they will invariably break into a big smile and bellow out a “Bula” to you, which means, “Hello and welcome,” in such an all-inviting way. Bula is such an oft-repeated word between people that it kind of echoes in your head by the end of the day.
In the museum there is a story about a missionary from England, Rev. Thomas Baker, who in the 1800s travelled to the interior of the main island to evangelize the natives in an isolated jungle village. Most of them had never seen a white man before. When he arrived, he saw the natives waiting for him as he approached, and he heard the drums and dancing and smoke rising in the distance. He thought that in their hospitality they were welcoming him to a feast. Little did he realize until later that he was to be dinner.
As time went on, more missionaries came and eventually transformed the islands, as many of the natives became Christians, including the inhabitants of the village where the Rev. Baker died. As these new Christians in that village studied God’s Word, they were overjoyed to learn of the Lord’s unconditional love, but they also couldn’t help feeling condemned and under a curse because of what their predecessors had done to that dear missionary. Their sin hung over them like a dark cloud, so that whenever anything bad happened in the village, they felt that God was punishing them again because of their sin.
Relatives of Rev. Baker, generations removed, heard of the emotional plight of these natives and sought to assuage their grief and feelings of condemnation. They visited the village and offered forgiveness for what the village people had done to their ancestor the Rev. Baker. Even though the villagers had the Bible, which told them they were loved and forgiven for their sins, they needed to make a tangible act apologizing to the people they had wronged to help them overcome their condemnation”.
In the minds of Rev. Baker’s relatives, this act of forgiveness was going to free an entire village of people. They believed that the supernatural power of forgiveness, something they couldn’t see or touch, had the power to change the villagers’ lives and free them from condemnation.
Although the villagers were part of the bigger Fiji Island community, they were separated by their own condemnation about their past and the belief that they were under a curse. The tangible act of apology and forgiveness changed that and they were able to more fully join in to the greater Fijian community.
Note about the narrative:
If you read through the different accounts of the events that happened many years ago, you will find various discrepancies there. As in the retelling of any event, people observe or remember things from different perspectives, so it is quite natural for there to be differences. The main events did happen and the consequences, both initially and now, are true which is the major consideration in this Bible Class.