Catholics Mourning Murder of 6 Anglican Missionaries in the Solomons

Victims of Militia Violence in South Pacific

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RABAUL, Papua New Guinea, AUG. 25, 2003 ( Catholic dioceses in the South Pacific have been asked to renew prayer this week for the victims of violence in the Solomon Islands.

Archbishop Karl Hesse, president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomons, called on the faithful to remember in particular the six Melanesian Brothers whose deaths came to light recently. The Melanesian Brotherhood is an Anglican community. The six had been kidnapped last April.

«We do not have many details from Guadalcanal,» the archbishop said. «We are told that the Melanesian Brothers were killed when they went to the Weather Coast in an attempt to find other members of their society. … We are deeply saddened by the realization that such evil could be done to people who dedicated their lives to the service of others.»

Archbishop Hesse called on Catholics to include in prayers the families of the Melanesian Brothers as well as the family of the Seventh-day Adventist volunteer beheaded on May 18 in Malaita.

Last July 24, an international force arrived of more than 2,200 military men and police arrived in the Solomons. The Australian-led force aims to put an end to four years of war between the militias of Guadalcanal and Malaita.

Many of Malaita’s inhabitants have emigrated to neighboring Guadalcanal in search of economic opportunities, but they have not found a warm welcome.

Ethnic rivalries led inhabitants of both islands to form their own militias. This was the start of a civil war that in June 2000 led to a coup d’état that deposed Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa.

In October 2000, the parties in conflict signed a peace agreement, but warlord Harold Keke retracted a few months later and returned to arms.

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