Honiara (Fides Service) – “At last this will be a Christmas of peace thank God. After five years of violence, death and fear, Solomon Islands today is a safer and more tranquil place than ever before” Salesian Father Ambrose Pereira in Honiara tells Fides. “The collection of firearms monitored by the international peacekeeping contingent helped to stop violence and killing. Today the capital Honiara is almost deserted. But this is a good sign: it means that most of the people who usually crowed its streets have been able to go home to be with their families for Christmas”.
Father Pereira will celebrate Christmas in the parish of Sali on one of the smaller islands: “With a group of local Catholics I will go to take food parcels and the warmth of Christmas joy to the 15 inmates of a nearby prison. With his coming at Christmas may the Lord teach us to be peaceful, patient and merciful”.
The Islands, a British Protectorate until 1978, were afflicted with two years of civil war 1998-2000, and even after a peace agreement was signed in 2000 armed fighting between rival groups continued. The arrival of an Australian led peacekeeping contingent last July helped dissolve tension and restore harmony.
Solomon Islands has a population of 440,000, 95% Christian, of whom about 90,000 are Catholics.
(PA) (Fides Service 23/12/2003 lines 25 words 269)