The first Methodist missionaries were preceded by a visit by three London Missionary Society missionaries from Tahiti and by Methodists from Tonga. In 1835 two missionaries, William Cross and David Cargill sailed to Fiji to begin a mission there and were joined in 1838 by John Hunt. The paramount chief Ratu Seru Cakobau (Thakombau) became a convert in 1854 and many others followed. The innate musical gifts of the Fijians led to the prominence of rhythmic Polyphonic chanting in their worship. In its turn, Christianity has had a profound effect on the social life and culture of Fiji, e.g. in the decline of such local practices as cannibalism, the strangulation of widows, burial alive and inter-tribal warfare.
The islands came under British rule in 1874 with the support of the Methodist missionaries, who saw it as a means of controlling the growing number of unruly white settlers. Until 1946 most of the educational work was in the hands of the Church, which still runs the Navuso Agricultural college, medical work and the Davuilevu Theological Institution for ministerial training. From 1879 on there was an influx of indentured labourers from India. The Indian Mission launched in 1892 was given new impetus by the arrival of Hannah Dudley in 1897. Dudley Church and Dudley High School are named in her honour. An independent Fijian Conference was inaugurated in 1964. In 2009 it found itself in conflict with the military leaders who had taken control following a coup.
Entry written by: JAV
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