From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3548 Brother Richard Carter's message about the Melanesian

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Sat, 9 Aug 2003 16:05:33 +0100

ACNS 3548     |     MELANESIA     |     9 AUGUST 2003

Brother Richard Carter's message about the Melanesian Brothers

 From Brother Richard Carter, Saturday 9 August 2003

To all my family and friends, companions and supporters of the Melanesian

[ACNS source: Papua New Guinea Church Partnership] I am writing to let you
know that yesterday it was confirmed by the Australian intervention force in
Solomon Islands that the six brothers who were taken hostage in April of
this year by the militant leader Harold Keke have been killed. For the last
week rumours had been circulating. Yesterday the leaders of the intervention
force met with Harold Keke on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal and they were
informed that these hostages have been dead for some time. The six brothers
set off from Honiara on the 23rd of April in order to find out what had
happened to Brother Nathaniel Sado who had reportedly been murdered by Keke
and his men. They wanted to find out if this was true, the reason for his
death and if he was indeed dead to bring his body back to Tabalia for
burial. The six brothers did not return. For weeks the community day and
night have been waiting, hoping and praying for their safety. Making contact
with Keke was difficult but all the reports and news we received was that
the brothers were being kept hostage but were alive and well.

In June the situation became even worse when five novices and two brothers
in the neighbouring district of Babanakira were also taken hostage. Four
weeks later first four of the novices and then two weeks after that the
final novice and two brothers were released. Keke seemed reconciliatory. He
even asked these novices to pray with his group and preach to him. He sent
them back with pigs and shell money. We were so thankful to get the novices
back safely but were worrying from their stories that none of them during
their captivity had seen any sign of the original six brothers taken. When
the novices were released Keke said he wanted a ceasefire and yet we did not
understand why he had not released the original 6.

Yesterday our worst fears were confirmed. The Melanesian Brotherhood was
officially informed by the Police Commissioner William Morrell that they had
been informed by Keke that all six were dead.

It is hard for such news to sink in. These were six young innocent brothers
who went out in faith and in love in search of their Brother. It seems too
much to bear that they should have been murdered in cold blood. I would like
to tell you a little about each one of them for each one will be so missed:

Brother Robin Lindsay is our Assistant Headbrother and has been in the
community for many years. He was four years Assistant Head Brother in
Solomon Islands and four years Headbrother in PNG. This year because we
needed someone of his experience so much he put his studies at Bishop
Patteson Theological College on hold and came back to help as Assistant Head
Brother. He has great leadership skills. I call him "the encourager" because
he has time for everyone and helps build on their strengths. He is known and
popular where ever he goes in PNG and Solomon Islands and even Norfolk in
the UK. With his strong handshake and absolute dedication to his work the
community feels in safe and caring hands whenever he is around. He is
brilliant at resolving conflicts and helping everyone feel valued and a part
of the community. He is so greatly loved, how much he will be missed.

Brother Francis Tofi from the time he was a novice was so bright and
attentive in all his studies. When you meet him you know straight away that
here is someone with a deep spiritual life and gentle wisdom. He asked
constant questions and understood intuitively what it meant to be a brother.
First in Malaita and then on the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal at the time of
tension and its aftermath he showed incredible courage. Here was a brother
who was prepared to speak out, to condemn violence and the use of weapons
and protect lives of others even at great personal danger. There are stories
of how he was able to resolve conflicts and rescue those who were being
beaten or in danger from the rebels. Early this year the World council of
Churches offered him a place at the Bossey Institute in Geneva to study and
contribute to a course on Conflict Resolution. He was so excited about the
prospect. He had become a good friend of mine. I was aware of the possible
danger he was in working for disarmament and particularly because he had not
been afraid to speak out against Keke. But his courage was very great. He
told me he was not frightened of dying in God's service and in his work for
peace. I reminded him that God wants LIVING sacrifices and he had his whole
life ahead of him. He laughed for death never really seems a possibility in
one so brave and full of life. Today we packed his only possessions in a
small grubby black rucksack. A few shirts, a couple of pairs of shorts, his
uniform and some books to return to his family. I cannot believe he is dead.

Brother Alfred Hilly. He is a young and humble brother, for two years he has
been looking after Chester resthouse in Honiara. Sometimes the guests find
him a bit quiet and vague but he has great kindness: always giving up his
bed and mattress to provide extra room for guests. He takes particular care
of the kids who love coming to the house. He makes sure they get fed at
lunch time and has been helping young Selwyn whose parents have deserted
him, learn to read. This year he trained in Malaria research and qualified
to read blood slides at the local clinic. This has been so helpful to all
the religious communities who bring their blood slides to him for the fast
diagnosis of malaria. And now dead.

Brother Ini Ini Partabatu, naughty and outspoken brave and full of energy.
He is a brilliant actor and became a key member of my dramas and joined me
on the Brothers mission and tour to New Zealand in 2000. Before joining the
community he worked in the drama group of Solomon Islands Development Trust
performing dramas about development and health issues. Ini as a Brother has
been brave to speak out against all injustice. He even confronted the SI
Police Force when he believed their methods were unjust, brutal or failing
to respect the rights of the people.

Brother Patteson Gatu. He is full of joy and so motivated as a new Brother.
He was only admitted last October and always smiles from ear to ear when you
meet him. The last time I saw him just before Easter he was telling me about
when he was fired at while trying to land on the beach as well as enthusing
about a sermon I had just preached. I was never quite sure whether he was
not teasing! He had such youth and warmth of faith. Not some narrow
religiousity but natural and real and strong.

And Brother Tony, who had no close parental care when he was young and found
in the Brotherhood a real family and home. He developed from a shy, thin and
humble novice into a stocky and bold brother. But he never lost his
simplicity. I remember taking a retreat with him on a desert island in Lord
Howe in which we fended off clouds of mosquitoes all night. He was easy
company and a natural and unassuming friend to many of the brothers. He
showed his courage throughout the tension and continued to help the
disarmament process.

Of one thing I am certain these six men will live on in the hearts and minds
of our community. Their sacrifice seems too great, hard to believe. The
community sat up all last night telling the stories of these brothers
through the night and trying to come to terms with the enormity of their
loss. And yet beneath the trauma there is a peace too. The knowledge that
each of these young men believed in peace and in goodness. They knew that
there was a better way. They were prepared to oppose violence and to risk
much. At the end of the day they stand against all acts of brutality which
are at present disfiguring our world and bravely, boldly, and with love,
lived what most of us proclaim only from the safety of a Church. Oh how much
the World wide Anglican Church at the moment could learn from their witness.

And when such real life issues are so much at stake in our world is not this
what the Gospel should be?

There is hope. The Intervention Force say Keke is willing to surrender his
guns and even face trial. Perhaps our six brothers will become like seeds
which fell upon the ground and died but will yield the harvest of peace
these islands and our world so longs for.

With love and prayers

Richard Carter

Further information from:

[A photograph of Brother Robin Lindsay is available from:]

ACNSlist, published by Anglican Communion News Service, London, is
distributed to more than 6,000 journalists and other readers around
the world.  For subscription information please go to:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home