Light continues to come,
and the Light will continue to shine.
The Reverend Canon Victor Joseph, Principal Wontulp-Bi-Buya College
1 July, 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of The Coming of the Light to the Torres Strait Islands. The London Missionary Society with Melanesian leaders landed on the shores of Erub (Darnley Island) and introduced the Bible to the people who lived there. This event, The Coming of the Light, is an integral part of cultural identity to Torres Strait Islander peoples and there is much joy on the anniversary each year.
When the ship, Surprise, landed on Erub in 1871 it brought with it the message of Jesus, who heralded a way of peace and non-violence. The Revd Canon Victor Joseph says, “The best thing it brought is that violence began to cease among the islands.” These visitors to the Torres Strait were welcomed in peace. The tribal leaders called for no weapons, receiving them in peace, open to what they were bringing.
It must be stated that the LMS missionaries did not bring God to the Torres Strait, rather the message of Jesus, through the Bible. God was on both sides of the beach that day, and since time immemorial.
Aunty McRose Elu recounts a story of when she was a child, asking her father, “Why they talking about the light, weren’t our people already in the light? Why are they saying it was a coming of the light to the Torres Strait?” She goes onto say, “They explained to me it wasn’t in the way of thinking that we were in the darkness, that we came out of darkness into light, it was like them bringing the light to us and we, bringing the light to them, and we also tell them, we have a light in our own surroundings, we have a spirituality, we have things that we believe in.”
The celebration Coming of the Light is an important anniversary for the national Anglican church. It invites us to reflect on our national history, on the good and the bad. It invites us to celebrate mission and ministry, particularly within the Torres Strait, and it invites us to listen to the church in the Torres Strait, which is made up of vibrant communities of hope.
As Rev’d Victor says, “The light continues to come”, and the 150th anniversary of the Coming of The Light is an opportunity for us to look for the Light, welcome it, and celebrate in joy.