Talks of cooperation, understanding and freedom of religion
BY CHARLES KADAMANA
Church leaders of Solomon Islands have come to the table with China to talk of cooperation, understanding and freedom of religion.
About 14 local church leaders met with the Chinese Ambassador at the Embassy yesterday.
These include representatives of the Solomon Islands Christian Association (SICA) and the Solomon Islands Full Gospel Association.
They were invited by the Embassy to an Open House Day.
Addressing the Christian leaders, Chinese Ambassador Li Ming said his Embassy is honoured to host and to educate them about China, on relations between China and Solomon Islands and promote further understanding between the two countries.
He said China is one of the oldest civilisations in the world – over five thousand years old.
He said religion has always been an indispensable part of Chinese history, civilisation and people.
He said the Chinese government attaches great importance to safeguarding freedom of religious beliefs of the Chinese people, and advocates law, independence and socialism.
He said the total number of religious believers in China is around 200 million including 45 million Catholics and Protestants.
They have made important contributions to economic growth, social harmony, cultural prosperity, ethnic solidarity and national unification, he added.
He said the Embassy supports dialogue and cooperation between religious groups of the two countries.
“We had planned for a visit by church leaders to China in 2019, but disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Vice Chair of SICA Rev Bishop Eric Maefonea praised the Chinese Embassy for providing the opportunity for church leaders understand more about China.
He said the Chinese Embassy is the first development partner to have invited church leaders to engage in discussions on how churches can work together with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to drive Solomon Islands forward.
He said before the switch from Taiwan in 2019, Chinese people had been here for many years, contributing significantly to the economy of Solomon Islands.
“So, after two years into formal diplomatic relationship, Solomon Islands has been familiar with China through individuals who have been here to trade over the many years.
“On behalf of the church leaders here it is our first ever for any diplomatic establishment in the country that could ever invited head of churches in Solomon Islands.
“I wish all of development partners we have in the past did the same so as church leaders could share our hearts and engage to develop our nation,” he said.
He said the establishment of diplomatic relations between PRC and Solomon Islands have gone through stormy seas, but through that, both countries sail together with better understanding.
“We got to know each other more and your invitation to us helps us to begin to know little bit about China,” he said.
He said certain people convey there is no freedom of religion in China but with just two years diplomatic relationship in the country, PRC brings different aspect of development from medical, infrastructures, religion and investment in the country.