That is a sensible enough topic that has so many implications in a Vanuatu setting. You see, Vanuatu’s national emblem reads “Long God Yumi Stanap”, literally meanting “In God We Stand”. That is a really bold declaration seeing that Christianity was not originally this country’s religion.
Vanuatu’s roots lie deep in customs. Customs that define culture, tradition, economy, politics, governance, justice, security, health, religion and every other aspects of our life. Our customs, deeply infused with superstitions, held our communities together and life was generally very manageable. Men, women and children knew their place in society. Chiefs were revered and their judgement was paramount. Family ties were strong and not easily broken.
Tribes, clans and villages were tightly knit together. Tribal wars would break out over mundane matters as declared by the tribal leaders – most notably, a chief. Spirits were revered and taboos respected. Respect prevailed in such a society.
Now, the “structure” with which chiefs and elders in a village kept their people together had one disadvantage (or advantage, depending on which view-point you are speaking from.) And that disadvantage was that it almost equally reflected the “structures” by which Missionaries operated. So when Christian Missionaries came to Vanuatu, it was very easy to integrate their missions into the Vanuatu way of life. Thus Vanuatu went down the road to Christianity – and into the hope of Jesus Christ and His soon return. [I point this out as a disadvantage because it was the start of the breakdown of customs that kept our people grounded.]
Now there is no disputing the truths presented in the Bible and the promise of eternal life when Jesus comes back to take his faithful few home (which is in Heaven, specifically the New Jerusalem). The purpose of the Christian Mission is a “call” to point sinners to Jesus (the Way, the Truth, the Life) so that their souls may be saved, and hence preparing themselves for Heaven. This is the ultimate “call” or “commission” for every Christian.
Throughout Vanuatu, there are scores of Christian Denominations – each adding their doctrinal flavors to the “commission”, but all working to save souls for Heaven. Despite doctrinal differences, these denominations strife to work side by side, even forging ecumenical ties to work on common grounds – although that is a totally different topic altogether.
As a Christian, one is “forced”, by realization of God’s saving grace, to abandon the bad customs of the land. One has the option to integrate the good aspects of Vanuatu’s customs into their Christian existence. And this fits in very well with the Vanuatu Christian experience. As was the case when only custom prevailed in the Vanuatu society, people knew their place in society and respect was paramount in daily livelihood. Due to this, a true Vanuatu Christian is always willing to admit he/she is a sinner.
Even though Christianity broke down some Custom in Vanuatu’s society, it provided a means to an end. While Custom kept the people grounded (yea, a foundation) and united, Christianity came to point the people in a direction towards something better. And that is how the peaceful people of Vanuatu have always been living together for decades.
A lot of foreigners, some of whom have become naturalized citizens, don’t quite understand this way of life. Even the purported Christian foreigners in this country. In their perverted view of the world and how society behaves, they have been instrumental in forcing ideologies that firstly contradicts Vanuatu’s customs, and then contorts the already established Christian way of life. Of course this has led to the opening up of a closed community and hence breeding disrespect. (Our founding fathers did not intend for this to happen, but it happened!)
Consequently, the elite group of Vanuatu citizens who claim to be educated raise their hands and speak out against any form of mishap in governance, politics, economics, and so on. Most of these educated elite who speak out, do so out of their realization that what is wrong is determined by the ideologies brought about by the unscrupulous foreigners who came about after Custom and Christianity had already been established as a way of life – albeit endorsed by indigenous citizens who have never understood Custom and Christianity in its true form.
Women, using domestic violence and equal opportunity as an excuse are ever increasingly wanting to be leaders of a nation that would be better off if the ladies did chores assigned to them by Custom and Christianity. They demand rights that are now giving them power to rule over men. Children now have rights that could make parents slaves to their offspring! Teenagers are having children before they can be able to understand the responsibilities of being parents. Men changing their appearances to look like women and women wanting to look like men – and they demand the right to be like so! Leaders taking Custom and Christianity out of context and exploiting the two to their own ends. The list goes on, and all contradicting the preset laws determined by both Custom and Christianity.
Now leaders of this nation wonder why Vanuatu is in downfall. I am of the opinion that they do not understand where their foundation is and they have absolutely no idea where they are headed! They are spoon fed by foreigners who do not care if Vanuatu is a sovereign country or just a simple tool for forging their agenda. The people are now floating on a sea of conventions and rights and duties and goals. The majority of the people in the urban areas are caught up in this. Custom and Christianity are no longer a serious part of the Vanuatu livelihood. They are fading into the background – into a history that will become neglected by and by.