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Looking back, looking forward: Mangaia reflects on 200 years of Christianity

Friday 21 June 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Church Talk, Features

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Looking back, looking forward: Mangaia reflects on 200 years of Christianity
CICC president Reverend Tuaine Ngametua (top) with other CICC Ministers conducting a church service on Mangaia. Mangaia Bicentennial Celebrations/24062010

Mangaia celebrated 200 years of Christianity with a week-long festival featuring chants, dances, historical reenactments, book launches and memorial plaque unveilings.

The historic celebration of 200 years of the arrival of Christianity in Mangaia (1824 – 2024) was held last week. The weeklong celebration was declared open by Numangatini Ariki himself together with the Aronga Mana, and the people of Mangaia, those who are resident on the island, the outer islands and from overseas (New Zealand and Australia).

The celebration started on Saturday, June 8, to Saturday, June 15. The dawning of the day was proclaimed through a chant prophetically by the ancestors at different intervals. The first one was proclaimed by Arokapiti in the Mangaian vernacular: “Ei kona ra koe kakaro ake ai i te Paeroa-ia-Manu, e vaevae ke, ke te ka aere, te aere mai ra to Atua na te aka i te rangi, a te kaokao rauaika ua te tea.” The second was almost the same except a different start: “Te koko nei au i to vai niata, i unu na to Atua e Tane, te aere mai ra to Atua na te aka i te rangi, a te kaokao rauaika ua te tea.” (Thou art behold, the stretched pathway of Paeroa-ia-manu, different feet would dare to trod, Thy god is coming from the root of the heavens, young and snowy white as a young unsprouted banana leaf… I am piercing your fresh nu, for your god O Tane, to drink, Thy god is coming from the root of the heavens, young and snowy white as a young unsprouted banana leaf)

In this celebration, history had repeated itself in the form of dancing, singing, re-enactment of the story of the pioneer missionaries Davida and Tiere and of course the feasting. The celebration was shared with the island’s three main communities: Oneroa on Monday, June 10th (Oneroa Day), Tamarua on Tuesday, June 11th (Tamarua Day), and Ivirua on Wednesday, June 12th (Ivirua Day).

Two books detailing the history of Christianity from 1824 to 2024 were launched to mark the celebration. The first book, titled “Te Ao Tarere” (Peace from Afar), was prepared by the Mangaia Historical Committee and launched on the opening day of the celebration and the second book, written by Reverend Vakaroto Ngaro, was launched on Ivirua day. The book is titled “Ka Apai Koe i Ta’u Evangelia ‘i‘ia Ngai Taporo ai?” (Where Are Going to Leave my Evangelia?)

Both books were put on sale to the general public, but unfortunately, there weren’t enough copies. There were only a hundred copies each.

Besides book launching, there were memorial plaques unveiled to commemorate the history of Christianity as well as the movements of the Evangelia from different locations to the current location. Oneroa relocated from Ariari-o-te-rangi to its current location in Taukea and the name of the church there is “Salema e Punanga”. Tamarua, after two movements, now stands on Te-Ata-Ao today and the name of the church is “Betela”. Ivirua had four movements and now stands on Arepapaka and the name of the church is “Peniela”.

The final words of Numangatini Ariki at the closing ceremony was, “What’s next?”

The answer lies in the hearts of Mangaians everywhere for the next two hundred years. After the rally on Sunday, June 16, there was fireworks display.

It’s time now to prepare for the next 200 years. Glory to God.

  • Reverend Vakaroto Ngaro (A proud Mangaian)