Young people from Honiara’s churches have volunteered their Sunday to clean up some of the mess and damage caused by four days of civil unrest in Solomon Islands, as ADRA has also moved to assist.
Under the slogan “Hands and feet of Jesus”, the young people from Burnscreek, Kukum, Naha, and Mamulele churches split up throughout the area to begin the clean-up work.
ADRA Solomon Islands (SI) provided water to the Adventist youth groups who focused on cleaning up the main road coming into Honiara (the national capital) from the airport.
What began as a protest march toward parliament on November 24 descended into looting and violence, causing an estimated $A35 million damage (USD 24.9 million).
According to an ADRA situation report, most of Chinatown, businesses in East Honiara, a bank, and two schools were destroyed or damaged. Three bodies were found in a burnt-out shop in Chinatown, and more than 1,000 people are estimated to be left unemployed by the destruction.
The government imposed a 36-hour lockdown to keep people off the streets.
Stephen Tasker, ADRA SI country director, reported that some of the young people were wearing their ADRA Disaster Ready Churches vests, which highlight the ADRA logo.
Today (November 29), ADRA SI will be working with People with Disabilities Solomon Islands (PWDSI) to deliver care packages to the disabled throughout Eastern Honiara, the area most impacted by the riots. There are people who haven’t been able to get any food or support due to the rioting, destruction of nearby shops, and the snap lockdown (less than two hours’ notice was given). PWDSI does not have a vehicle, so the ADRA vehicle will be used to help deliver the care packages.
On Friday, Dr. Silent Tovosia, Solomon Islands Mission president, told Adventist Record the feeling was tense and people in Honiara felt helpless as they waited for police to restore law and order. “There was no burning or looting as much as it was yesterday,” he said. “Much of the looting was in the eastern part of Honiara where the businesses are located. Chinatown, in central Honiara, appears to have been specifically targeted, as most shops have been torched.”
No Adventist property has been reported damaged, although some Adventist business owners may have been impacted. “In terms of infrastructure, we have not had any buildings burnt or damaged in the SIM compound or at Kukum,” shared Dr. Tovosia. “None of our 15 organized churches has reported any damage. We praise God for this. It seems the targets are more political.” He then requested, “Pray with us and encourage our members to remain faithful disciples in these trying times.”
Dr. Tovosia added, “Pastor Terry Johnson [Australian Union Conference president] and Jannette and Andrew Kingston [Andrew is the former SI Mission president] have sent us encouraging messages, and we are very grateful for their prayers and kind thoughts.”
Church leaders are urging members to steer clear of the protests and instead offer support to those who have been impacted. The SI Mission has also offered its campground facilities for those in need to provide temporary accommodation.
“[Church members] have been encouraged to pray.… they should be helping to support the families affected by the riot as much as possible,” said Dr. Tovosia.
ADRA is coordinating response efforts in collaboration with other non-government agencies. Greg Young, from ADRA South Pacific, said ADRA is considering a proposal to fund 150 food and hygiene kits.