Te Putokotoko o Tamatoa Ariki - Kiikoro- i-te-Maru-o-te-Ao: Arerau Maao Jnr , Tamatoa Teao Ariki and Rongomatane Nicholas Paenui Te-iti Ariki prepare for the start of the parade to Nootu. TUAINE UNUIA/23071918
The island of Atiu this week kicked off Nga Pu Toru’s ‘Te Arikianga o te Evangelia – Arrival of the Gospel Bicentennial’ celebrations.
event held on Wednesday marked the arrival of Christianity two centuries ago on
July 19, 1823.
to historian and author Howard Henry, Reverend John Williams and the Mission
Ship made their way to Atiu in mid-July 1823 after an attempt to take the
Gospel to the island in April the previous year.
“Native Teachers” were left on Atiu, after an Ariki had given assurance that no
harm would come to them. Rev Williams wondered if these two men had succeeded
with their missionary endeavours on Atiu to the same extent that Papehia and
Vahapata had achieved on Aitutaki in 1821.
Mission Ship and her crew were met by Rongomatane Ariki who was explained the
purpose of their visit.
Ariki was told that two teachers from Raiatea had first landed on Aitutaki to
introduce the Gospel and Christianity to the people of that island. He said
there were two teachers on board who are willing to go ashore and teach the
people of Atiu all about the Gospel, Jesus Christ and Christianity,” writes
Rev Williams soon became somewhat disappointed after he discovered that his two
“Native Teachers” left at Atiu the previous year had been stripped of their
possessions and were living a destitute existence on an isolated part of the
a result of this, he concluded that they had to leave the island.
to Henry, Rongomatane Ariki remained on board that night and neither he nor any
of the visitors apparently got any sleep.
spent the whole night discussing matters relating to Christianity, the Gospel,
Jesus Christ and the Spirit of the Lord.
Ariki was told that by embracing the Gospel, his people would also be embracing
a whole new way of life. He was told that once his people had accepted
Christianity, there would be no more wars, no more fighting and certainly no
Ariki of Atiu was told that this was because God was a “Loving God” and that
Christians did not fight or cause harm to each other. The Ariki was told that
everyone would live in peace and harmony because that was the Christian way as
to how people lived their lives.
Ariki was also told that while Jesus Christ was the son of God, and had been a
man in the living form, his father, being God, was a spirit. And that “Spirit
of God” was everywhere in this world, at all times. His spirit would never
fade. His spirit would never die.”
Ariki’s traditional gods had been very good to him over recent years including
the guiding of he and his warriors to the conquest over the people of nearby
Mitiaro (or Miti’aro) and Mauke (or Ma’uke).
it had quickly become obvious to Rongomatane Ariki, that the European God was
far more powerful, generous and “rich-with-giving” to its believers than his
traditional gods had ever been,” writes Henry.
next day Rev Williams invited Rongomatane Ariki to attend their morning church
service on board the Mission Ship as an observer. The Ariki accepted this
invitation and so the Missionary went out of his way to deliver a sermon that
was designed specifically for the ears of Rongomatane Ariki and his “spiritual
addition to the sermon of Rev Williams and prayers from Rev Robert Bourne,
there was also the singing of hymns by all those on board the Mission Ship. The
power, passion and emotion displayed by those singing these hymns was of the
kind that Rongomatane Ariki had never heard before.
addition to that, everyone appeared so happy, so joyful and obviously really
enjoying this occasion. The Ariki of Atiu clearly saw the emotion and heartfelt
commitment by those who sang these hymns that it is impossible not to think
that the ‘Spirit of the Christian Faith’ did not reach through to touch the
heart of Rongomatane Ariki.
there was the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ . . . that too had a significant effect on the
a result of that church service, Rongomatane Ariki made up his mind that he
wanted to change his ‘Religious Allegiance’ to that of the Christian faith. He
told the Missionary that he wanted to abandon his traditional gods and was
willing to embrace Christianity.”
Ariki also helped introduce Christianity to the islands of Mitiaro and Mauke.
Mitiaro will celebrate their Te Arikianga o te Evangelia on Saturday and Mauke