The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum


Efforts to establish Christianity in Fiji began in 1825, when Takai of Oneata, Lau, went to Tahiti to persuade the London Missionary Society to send a missionary to Fiji. Tahitian catechists were sent but stayed in Tonga on hearing that Tanoa of Bau, notorious for his ferocity, was at Lakeba. A second initiative was foiled in 1830, as Fiji’s reputation for shipwreck and savagery continued. Three Tahitian catechists were sent to Lakeba but settled instead with Takai on Oneata after a hostile reception at Lakeba.

In 1832 the London Missionary Society agreed to concentrate on Samoa, while the Methodist Mission, already established in Tonga, concentrated on gaining a foothold in Fiji. In 1835, veteran Methodist missionary William Cross and Reverend David Cargill, together with their wives and a team of Tongan “teachers”, lead by a Fijian Josua Mateinaniu, landed at Lakeba, Lau. The missionaries met with little initial success at their mission in Tubou, Lakeba. The Tui Nayau (Paramount Chief of Lau) and other chiefs would not entertain conversion to Christianity until the chiefs of Bau, Rewa and Cakaudrove accepted it.

The missionaries’ efforts were reinforced after 1838, when the Mission concentrated on spreading its influence by placing English missionaries in key centres in Bau, Rewa and Cakaudrove, and dispersing Tongan and Fijian “teachers” as widely as possible.

The first Catholic missionaries to arrive in Fiji were Bishop Pompallier, Fathers Rolleaus and Breheret, Borther Annet and two Wallisian catechists, Pako and Apolonio. They landed at Namuka, Lau on the 12th August 1844. A mission was later established in Totogo, Levuka and in 1852 Fathers Matthieu and Michael began the foundations of a station at Nailililli in Rewa.

By 1854 the conversion of Ratu Seru Cakobau, son of Tanoa Visawaqa of Bau had a major influence in the large-scale acceptance and conversion to Christianity in Fiji.