Freedom in Christ: Practising Forgiveness in the Solomons

Cath Duce, a final year ordinand, is currently on placement in the Solomon Islands. This is her most recent post.

The prison in Honiara, otherwise known as the Rove Correctional Centre, is located on the outskirts of the capital. It consists of grey concrete, barbed wire, and layers of metal grid walls separating the incarcerated from the outside world. Four women, a few young people and a very large population of men from across the Solomon Islands are housed there.

The local bus dropped us off outside. I was clutching a water bottle and a Bible, flanked by two CSC Sisters, who visit the prison weekly to do Bible Study. Having spent much of my childhood visiting a prison (due to my father
’s work as prison chaplain), I was interested to experience the ministry of Anglican religious communities to those people behind bars in a developing country. The long walkway up to the prison gates was swarming with prison officers. We gathered outside the main entrance with a Catholic chorus group and a group from the South Seas Evangelical Church where upon Chaplain Fr Jack, an inspiring leader, assigned each of us a prison wing. At 9am the sound of jingling padlocks signalled our welcome and we were herded in like cattle, searched with a metal detector, and directed past wheel barrows of bread loaves waiting to be circulated for breakfast (I couldn’t help but think this was a delicious sight after three days of rice for breakfast at Verana’aso, home to the other Sisters of Melanesia!). My fear slightly rose as we separated off and ushered into a locked shared living space of 30 rather terrifying looking male prisoners where upon all prison officers seemed to disappear from sight. I was completely in the hands of the quiet authority of the sisters. The men came in, one after another, solemn faced, clutching, like me, only their Bible and a glass of water. Each prison wing has an assigned worship leader a prisoner who leads the opening chorus songs. These words are permanently stuck up on the dining room wall.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment when everyone began to sing. The tense atmosphere softened. With eyes tightly closed in prayer, the prisoners seemed to enter a new world of freedom with God, singing at the top of their voices: “Oh Lord, how glad I am to be free…” I read the Bible passage Matthew 6:7-15 on the Lord’s Prayer. Then everyone was invited to share how this passage touched them. A few people spoke about forgiveness and how easy it is for us to rush over those words of the Lord’s Prayer. One person said, ‘when you find it hard to forgive someone, it blocks your ability to pray. These prisoners knew their need for God. It was a memorable morning. This Lent I am learning so much from Solomon Islanders about practising forgiveness in small unsung ways. Reconciliation is deep rooted in this culture. Rarely does the sun go down without an apology. This Lent are we able to sing: “Oh Lord, how glad I am to be free…..”? 

This week please pray for

  • The prison ministry of both the Community of the Sisters of the Church and the Sisters of Melanesia, as they faithfully lead Bible Studies every Sunday morning and encourage the men, women and young people behind bars. Please pray for Prison Chaplain Fr Jack.
  • Please pray for the ongoing water situation at Verana’aso. Though the faulty pump has now been fixed there are still issues with the supply. Please pray for a speedy resolution to the problems with the existing bore hole.
  • Pray for Susie and Jonathan from Hilfield Friary, UK as they settle into a three month placement at Hautambu with the Franciscan Brothers.

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