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Torres Strait: 144th anniversary of Anglican missions

Posted on: July 1, 2015 3:09 PM
Photo Credit: Stanmar/Wikimedia Commons

[Anglican Board of Mission — Australia] July 1, 2015 marks the 144th  anniversary of the ‘Coming of the Light’, the occasion that celebrates when the London Missionary Society first landed on Erub, also known as Darnley Island, in Torres Strait.

Anglican Board of Mission — Australia’s (ABM) Reconciliation Coordinator, Malcolm MacCallum said July sees a number of occasions to reflect on reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history including NAIDOC Week and the ‘Coming of the Light’.

Mr MacCullum said, “The arrival of the first missionaries was an event that was celebrated. Missionaries sometimes spelt the end of many Indigenous peoples’ traditional belief systems, but in Torres Strait it was a different story.”

The London Missionary Society messengers did not try to significantly change the unique Torres Strait Island culture. Rather, they used Deacons from the South Pacific to introduce the Christian Gospel to the Islanders which by most accounts was a much more positive approach.

‘Coming of the Light’ is celebrated in many communities across Australia, from Townsville in the east to Port Hedland in the west.

On Erub in early July, activities will include church services, a re-enactment of the landing, hymn singing, feasting and Ailan dans – strengthening community and family ties.

Erub is a six-kilometre-long volcanic island in eastern Torres Strait, closer to Papua New Guinea than mainland Australia and is home to around 400 people.

Mr MacCallum said, “At ABM we encourage Anglicans as well as Australians in general to use July as a time of reflection on our history and an opportunity to pray for the ministry with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and reconciliation.”