Ini Kopuria

Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood

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Ini Kopuria
Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood

Picture courtesy of pinterest.nz

The Melanesian Brotherhood is one of the most important organisations of the Melanesian church, Ini Kopuria is its founder. He was born in the first Christian village on that Guadalcanal. He was baptised and then sent away to school, first to Pamua and later to Norfolk Island. Even at that stage he was remarkable for his independence and originality. He joined the Native Armed Constabulary and was stationed on his home island.

In 1924, while attempting to make an arrest, Kopuria suffered an accident and was ill for some time. He underwent an intense religious experience and decided to form a brotherhood of young men who would take Christianity to the pagan villages of Guadalcanal where he himself had worked as a policeman.

The idea of a brotherhood arose from several influences. The Anglo-Catholic style of the Melanesian Mission meant it was sympathetic to such an idea. Charles Fox had formed the Brotherhood of St An-drew in 1916 which had lasted for 4 years, so there was some experience of a brotherhood in Melanesia. In addition, while on Norfolk Island, Ini had heard the stories of the early English monks evangelising Germany. There was also a wish to present Christ in their own cultural context.

On 28 October 1925, St. Simon and St. Jude's Day, 1925, on his own land at Tabalia, , he took his life vow before the two Bishops, Bishop Steward and Bishop Molyneux, and A. I. Hopkins. He gave this land to the Brotherhood and it became their headquarters. The Brotherhood had begun. The vows were later somewhat modified with the brothers taking temporary vows, that could be annually renewed to remain unmarried, to take no payment for their work, and to obey those in authority. They were to work in pairs and would be organised in “households” of no more than twelve.

By 1935 there were 128 brothers. The Brotherhood became a significant force for evangelism, and the undisputed leadership of Ini Kopuria was a prime factor in its success. He worked first in his own island of Guadalcanal, then in Santa Cruz, then in Sikaiana, which owes him its Christianity, then in Mala, and then for some time in SagSag at the western end of New Britain, opposite New Guinea, where he prepared a number of people for Baptism. He also began an Order of Companions of the Brothers to foster village support, so that they could be independent of the Melanesian Mission and a totally Melanesian organisation.

Ini Kopuria remained Head Brother until 1940, and the advent of World War II, he left the brotherhood, absolved from his lifelong vow, he joined the American Labour Corps, and married. He spent the rest of his days as a village deacon in Guadalcanal.

BORN:c.1900, Maravovo, Guadalcanal.

DIED: 6 June 1945, Maravovo, Guadalcanal.