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PAPE‘ETE, Tahiti, French Polynesia (March 5, 2002 - Tahitipresse)---This week thousands of people commemorated the arrival of the first missionaries in Tahiti 205 years ago. Celebrations, including songs, dances and prayers, were held in two main locations, in Papeari (west coast of Tahiti) and Mahaena (east coast of Tahiti).

The first missionaries arrived March 5th, 1797, on the "Duff," only thirty years after British Navy officer Samuel Wallis "discovered" Tahiti in 1767.

They were all members of the London Missionary Society (LMS) and aimed at spreading their religion in the Pacific islands area.

The first missionaries arrived at Matavai Bay, on Tahiti's east coast.

Their task was not an easy one, far away from the London Missionary Society, and they had to compete with Catholic priests who came to French Polynesia a few years later.

Despite the French protectorate over Tahiti in 1842, Protestantism managed to grow in the Polynesian islands. Today, a large majority of the population of French Polynesia is Protestant (Evangelical Church of Tahiti).

March 5th is a public holiday in French Polynesia.

For additional reports from Tahiti Press, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources: Agence Tahitienne de Presse.

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