17 October 2003

Fijian PM backs apology for eating missionary

Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase today commended a planned apology by a village whose ancestors killed and ate a missionary in 1867.

'I believe in the Bible that says once a wrong has been done, apology and asking for forgiveness is most appropriate and yes, I support them in their intention,' Qarase told AFP today.

Reverend Thomas Baker, an Englishman born in Playden, Sussex, in 1832, was the first missionary killed in Fiji when a group he was leading, comprising young theology students and local missionaries, was ambushed as they walked through Navatusila village in interior territories untouched by Christianity.

Qarase says he has no details of the intended traditional apology ceremony although media reports name him as one of the delegates to the apology session.

He says his role would presumably be in his capacity as Minister for Reconciliation.

'I know the event took place years ago but it is better to be humble and ask for forgiveness from those who have been wronged,' Qarase said.

A staunch Methodist, Qarase says the ceremony would be very good for personal relations with others, especially between the villagers and Baker's surviving family.

Um, I certainly hope that John Howard follows Qarase's example when it comes to saying sorry. I think.

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