It is hard, hard work in the Solomons
By ANN KIMMEL
THE Solomon Islands, once known as an area of cannibals and still a region of 90 per cent illiteracy, is rapidly expanding its education, its Christian unity and its number of native priests and religious.
That is the message Bishop Daniel Stuyvenberg, S.M,, is bringing to the Marist parishes and schools in England during a three-week visit here.
The Dutch-born Bishop who has worked in the Solomon Islands for 28 years, told the CATI101.1t HERALD last week that the greatest problem facing his missioners is loneliness. The islands, 1,50(1 miles in the Pacific Ocean from Australia, are covered with moantailes and jungles. Priests must travel 70 to 80 miles in small boats to see each other.
Most of the 150.000 people live near the coasts. Their main diet is sweet potatoes, which the women cultivate. Because the islanders have always been. so warlike, the traditional work fur men is standing behind their wives to protect them from at tacks.
Bishop Stuyvcnhcrg feels the people's ferocity was closely connected with their primitive religion. The non-Christians still venerate their ancestors' skulls, fearing their cvii spirits.
He said it was not easy for missionaries to help the people overcome this fear by preaching the love of a God who is good. "It sometimes takes two or three generations",
But his Matist priests. Brothers and Sisters, plus 72 native Sisters and 270 native catechists. are working hard to create the change in their scattered schools and medical centres.
A desire to learn English has spread since the War. Bishop Stuyvenberg thinks it could become a means of contact with the outside world as well as a unified language between the islanders who speak a variety of dialects.
This year the British-run Government is opening the islands' first secondary school. "And in 1966 1 hope to start another that will take both Catholic and Anglican pupils. I also hope to obtain places for two or three native Sisters in a course at Oxford for non-English-speaking people."
When he was appointed Bishop six years ago, he made friendly contacts with the local Anglican Bishops. Catholic missiorters are told not to look for converts from the Protestant Churches. Sometimes Catholics and Anglicans have interdenominational public services together, But both Churches have opposed mixed marriages as being "too confusing" for the people.
There are 14 lay Australians working in Bishop Stuyvenberg's missions, and he would welcome technically skilled people from England as well. Rut only on condition they agreed to stay for five years.