Remembering the Melanesian Brotherhood on D-Day

inikopuria-473It was only this morning that I realized that the anniversary of D-Day coincides with the church’s commemoration of Ini Kopuria, founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood. It is, I think, an apt coincidence. The Melanesian Brotherhood is a religious order in the South Pacific—you can read more on Wikipedia—that entered Anglican consciousness perhaps most forcefully in 2003 when seven of their members were killed in violence related to civil turmoil in the Solomon Islands. At the time, the attention of many Anglican leaders was focused on the consecration of a new bishop in New Hampshire but the witness of these men was so powerful it demanded attention. I have just finished reading Richard Carter’s In Search of the Lost, a moving account of the months before and after the martyrdom of these seven Brothers. By 2003, the turmoil in the Solomon Islands had moderated and the Brothers had been asked to take the lead on a disarmament campaign. At a time when the police were suspect and international forces were only just establishing themselves, it was only the Brothers who could make a credible claim that weapons needed to be collected and destroyed if peace was to be reestablished. Their trustworthiness was rooted in the life they lived as a community—prayerful, open, honest, mutual. By living the values of the Gospel, they held up a vision of a different kind of community. People saw that and responded. The Gospel is powerful stuff. The death of the seven Brothers came about when one went to meet with a rebel leader and work towards peace. When he didn’t come back, six others went to look for them. For several agonizing months, it was unclear what had come of them. Finally, it was confirmed that they had been tortured and killed.SI_Brotherhood_Funeral (As a taste of the book, you can listen to this interview that Richard Carter gave last year to Vatican Radio on the 10th anniversary of the martyrdoms.) Ini Kopuria, whom the church commemorates today, died long before the 2003 martyrdoms. But the vision of a community that in its way of living challenges the ethos of the world around it remains strong. I have incredible admiration and respect for all who participated in D-Day and for those who fought in the World War II. But I also want Christians to be able, at the same time, to hold up a vision of a different kind of community that is not based on violence, submission, and force. Christians do this best when they are living those values in their own lives. One of the stated priorities of Justin Welby is a revival of the religious life in the church. It is not only in religious orders that Christians are able to show forth this alternate religious community, but given their nature it is a particular charism of such orders. We pray for the success of the archbishop’s efforts so that we can all be enriched by the example of orders like the Melanesian Brothers. Then, together, as the body of Christ, we pray that we may model the other world that is brought about in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.melanesianbrotherschapel

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