EAST NEW BRITAIN REPENTS FOR LONG AGO CANNIBALISM

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By Joshua Arlo

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 13) - A Fijian delegation traveled to East New Britain last Saturday via Port Moresby to attend a reconciliation celebration.

[PIR editor’s note: New Britain is an island province located north of mainland Papua New Guinea. ]

The Tolai and other affiliated New Guinea Islands groups upon their arrival at the Jackson International airport treated the delegation to a warm reception.

The reconciliation celebration between the Fiji and East New Britain communities is to mark 132 years since the first early Fijian missionaries came to PNG, particularly to East New Britain to spread the word of God.

The celebration marks an important chapter -- the process of healing and relationship building -- between the people of these two communities.

It was through the spirit of bravery, faith and understanding by the Fijian missionary that Rev George Brown first sealed this relationship by traveling from Fiji to the island of New Britain, then a savage and hostile land.

The reconciliation was a way for the descendents of the cannibalistic Tolai people to ask forgiveness from those who came after Rev Brown including other missionaries, who were killed and eaten by the Tolais.

It was a way for the East New Britain community to apologize, repent and beg for forgiveness on behalf of their forefathers’ actions, which was critical for the healing process between the two communities.

The Fijian delegation accepted the East New Britain traditional way of apologizing by laying ‘tanget leaves’ at their feet and also by allowing them to put strands of ‘tabu shells’ around their necks.

Tabu shells are traditional money used as a means of social standing in the Tolai community during weddings, funerals and other occasions.

The East New Britain community said they were proud of the Fijian missionaries, who braved the odds to come spread the word of God with them.

The delegation, who arrived in Port Moresby at around 11 a.m., flew out to East New Britain at around 3pm, where the main celebration will be held.

They will return to Port Moresby on Thursday and depart for Fiji on Friday.

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