April 2013 marks a decade since the martyrdom of seven members of the Melanesian Brotherhood, an Anglican religious community founded in the early 20th century on the remote Solomon islands. Known for their simple monastic lifestyle, their compassion and commitment to peace, the brothers were called on to serve as mediators during the ethnic conflict that raged across the islands during the 1990s.
A fragile truce between the warring factions was signed in 2000 but one warlord continued to wage a terror campaign, prompting first one brother, then six others, to set out on a peace mission – a journey from which they never returned.
“ It was like a crucifixion, it was like everyone is looking to you and your community to be the hope of the nation and then seven of them die……”
So said Rev. Richard Carter worked for 15 years as chaplain to the Melanesian Brothers and was charged with the task of telling the families about the brutal deaths of the seven men. During a recent visit to the Roman Basilica of St Bartholomew on an island in the the Tiber River, where the brothers’ relics are displayed, he talked with Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio about the history of the community and the impact these martyrs for peace had on the lives of people far beyond that remote Pacific region.
The remaining Melanesian Brothers live simply and according to the vows of their order.