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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Religous group claims lost arc of the covenant in Malaita: an article from Radio Australia's Pacific Beat

A number of small, breakaway religious groups in Solomon Islands appear convinced that the Biblical Ark of the Covenant is buried somewhere in the mountains on the island of Malaita. The Anglican Bishop of Malaita, Bishop Terry Brown, says the Solomon Islands Government and the Regional Assistance Mission, RAMSI, would be wise not to dismiss the phenomenon as yet another bemusing cult story.

Presenter/Interviewer: Sean Dorney
Speakers: Bishop Terry Brown, the Anglican Bishop of Malaita in Solomon Islands

DORNEY: Bishop Terry Brown says there is quite a history behind the stories of people searching for the Arc of the Covenant in Malaita.

BROWN: There's a kind of general phenomenon among a lot of the churches in Malaita especially the South Seas Evangelical Church to somehow try to put together the traditional Malaita genealogy and traditional Malaita culture with the culture of the Old Testament. And so groups will read in the 2nd Chronicles the stories of the various tribes, the tribe of Levi and so forth, and then find a genealogy and it ends off with a lost tribe.

And then [they] argue that it picks up with one of their, sort of, ancestors, same name, I think the name in particular is Zeral, somebody in the 2nd Chronicles, and then begin their ancestry. So this then involves a traditional story of people of Malaita having come from Israel how many thousand years ago in a canoe. Come perhaps with the Covenant Box of the temple or Moses' walking stick or one thing and another and then going up into the bush in Malaita, building a replica of King Solomon's temple, hiding the Covenant Box, the Arc of the Covenant and worshiping as Jews.

The Malaita traditional religion emerges out of the Jewish tradition of the Old Testament. Now, somehow Christianity gets in there too. People don't exactly have their dates all sorted out because people also see themselves as Christians so that when Christianity came it was just a case of sort of recognising something that was already there.

DORNEY: Bishop Brown says some of the people with these beliefs are sue they will eventually find solid evidence.

BROWN: There are at least two or three archaeological ruins up in the bush of North Malaita and Central Malaita that people somehow see as replicas of King Solomon's temple. And of course it doesn't hurt that the Solomon Islands are named after King Solomon as well. One prophet is digging up this temple, this old archaeological site, and conducting Christian worship on it.

There are other groups digging around in the bush hunting for the Arc of the Covenant. Some of them are wanting to reimpose the Jewish law, reimposing the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday. But then they also look to contemporary Israel as a kind of saviour. I mean there's stories of steamships coming from Israel to take people back to Israel. There've been stories of Rabbis coming and doing DNA tests on people to try to prove the ancestry. You see Israeli flags.

So there's an element, a little bit, of the element of the Malaita Eagle Force. They saw themselves a little bit in this tradition. There's even been a few people who have, sort of, tried circumcision because of the Old Testament. But most recently where it's really come up is groups that see Malaita law, Jewish law, as a kind of a theocracy, the discovery the Covenant Box (as) a kind of holiness, and the kind of theocracy that will rule Malaita. And it is manifesting itself in opposition to RAMSI. That is, that this theocracy doesn't need the National Government, it doesn't need the Provincial Government, it doesn't really need the mainline churches and it doesn't need RAMSI.

DORNEY: Bishop Brown says he's been told by a Government official that some of the groups are supporting the Malaita Separatist Movement and, if so, the development should not be ignored.

BROWN: Of course, the Malaita Separatist Movement has been writing threatening letters and is reputed to have a hit list of politicians that it wants to kill. And they're telling people not to take part in the national elections, that Malaita will be an independent country under theocracy. I mean there have been groups, I mean there is quite a famous group in northern Uganda, the Lord's Liberation Army, which started out as what was a fairly harmless Christian group that said everybody had to live by the Ten Commandments.

And now it's turned into a terrible guerilla movement kidnapping whole school fulls of children and what-not and it's just totally disrupted northern Uganda. Now, I hope nothing like that's going to happen but it's a phenomenon people need to keep in mind. And probably the best way to check it would be economic development because people turn to these kinds of magical cargo cults or Family Charity Funds or get-rich-quick schemes or pyramid fund schemes - and there are so many of these in the Solomons because the economic situation is so bad.

Source: Pacific Beat

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