The Coming of the Light-2 July 2017

Coming of the Light and Christianity – Australian Feast and Commemoration for 1 July 2017

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Holy Cross Anglican church on Dauan Island with a memorial to the missionaries of the London Missionary Society. The memorial is in the shape of a boat in which the missionaries arrived. Photo by Ludo Kuipers, 2001.

In July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane, a member of the London Missionary Society, anchored off Kemus Beach at Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait, where the inhabitants were known to be fierce warriors. He was accompanied by New Caledonian mission teachers and their wives.

Dabad, a warrior clan Elder on Erub, met them on the beach, and in defiance of tribal law welcomed the missionaries.

This event became known as the Coming of the Light, and recognises the adoption of Christianity throughout Island communities during the late nineteenth century. Coming of the Light is celebrated by Torres Strait Islanders on 1 July each year with church services, re-enactment of the landing at Kemus, hymn singing, feasting, and Ailan dans.

For Torres Strait Islanders, the arrival of the missionaries marked the beginning of a new era, and Islanders use the Torres Strait Creole (Kriol) word bipotaim (meaning before time) to refer to the era before the coming of the missionaries.

The Torres Strait Islanders’ acceptance of the missionaries and Christianity has been credited with ending conflict between different Island groups. Pacific Islander missionaries also brought new language, songs, dances and customs, and new cultural influences from the Pacific islands. On a practical level, the missionaries also provided Torres Strait Islanders with some protection from exploitation in the maritime industries.

The acceptance of missionaries and Christianity in the Torres Strait led to profound changes that have affected every aspect of life since then.

[Church influence]

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Source:Coming of the Light and Christianity Anti-discrimination commission of Queensland

 

Images ADCQ : Coming of the Light and Christianity. 2017. ADCQ : Coming of the Light and Christianity. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/resources/a-and-tsi/torres-strait-islander-people-in-qld/coming-of-the-light. [Accessed 03 July 2017].
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