Melanesia and Its Churches: Past and Present

Article excerpt

Melanesia and Its Churches: Past and Present. By Franco Zocca. Goroka, Papua New Guinea: Melanesian Institute, 2007. Pp. v, 218. Aus$30 / euro201 US$25.

This is an English translation of a book published originally in Italian in 2006. The author, who belongs to the Roman Catholic Order of Divine Word Missionaries, began mission work in the South Pacific in 1974. He has been at the Melanesien Institute in Papua New Guinea since 1994 and is thus well qualified to produce a substantial publication about the churches of Melanesia.

What is immediately striking about this book is the breadth of its coverage. Its aim is "to present the current situation of the Melanesian Christians and to trace these situations back to their roots, both historical and cultural" (p. 1). In eight chapters the author addresses geography and population, traditional cultures and religions, European colonization, evangelization (in two chapters), movements, emerging independence, and current statistical data of the churches across Melanesia (Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, East and West New Guinea).

The book exhibits both the strengths and weaknesses of such an enterprise. …