BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
THE biggest Seventh Day Adventist church in Rennell & Bellona province, the Ngongona SDA church on Bellona’s central district, is in danger of being closed down, it is reported.
It is understood that a proposed dialogue between the SDA Mission President Dr Silent Tovosia and landowners is set for some time this month, upon which the fate of Ngongona church lies.
“Whether we will close Ngongona church or not, depends entirely on this dialogue with the SDA Mission president, which we see as the last-chance talks,” landowners tell Island Sun.
The decision to close down the church is a culmination of years of alleged mistreatment and threats by local church workers on landowners, catalysed by alleged negligence by the SDA Mission to find an amicable resolution.
In a letter of request to the SDA Mission in May this year, landowners outlined a long list of abuse, mistreatment and threat suffered under the current church workers, begging the church authority to address the matter.
Some of the allegations go back as far as 2012, it is reported.
The SDA Mission was given until end of June to respond to the landowners. The church authority never did.
In response, landowners yesterday submitted a letter acknowledging the SDA Mission’s ignorance and stated their resolve to execute their ultimatum, which is to close down the church and open a 21-day period for anyone to challenge their legitimacy in land ownership.
This letter of closure finally caught the church authority’s attention.
Yesterday, the president of the SDA Mission made contact with the landowners seeking dialogue.
Speaking to Island Sun, landowners make it clear that the fate of Ngongona church depends on this proposed ‘last talk’.
“We have had enough, but being devout Christians and law abiding citizens, we are giving the church this final chance to meet our request, and in the course, making sure that we are exhausting all means possible before we can rightfully close the church – if it comes to that,” landowners tell Island Sun.
Island Sun contacted the SDA Mission president yesterday, and he admitted that they are aware of the issue but does not buy the claim of them being ignorant to it.
“It is not fair to say that we are ignorant to the issue as we are also trying our best to solve it. Having setting in two different locations is quite difficult,” said the SDA president.
He retorts that the issue is a local one between the landowners at Bellona and the local church officers working there so there is no need for it to be raised in the media as ‘they should only sort it out between them’.
“But then I respect their freedom of perspective,” said the SDA president.
He elaborated that nevertheless, he has delegated a committee to deal with the issue in which a Church pastor will be sent over soon to Bellona to hold dialogue with the two parties in order to sort out their issue.
He on the other hand assured that he will be continuing with his attempt to try and talk to them.
Meanwhile, landowners say, “in line with what the president says, how can he justify the near-decade of problems that we had faced? Despite the number of complaints we raised to the SDA Mission about our issues, they have failed to resolve it, and he is saying that they have been trying their best to solve it?
“This issue was not just borne yesterday, it has been brewing decades before but began to become unbearable nearly 10 years ago. We have been pushed out of a church that is standing on our God-given land, and have been forced to attend churches in east or west Bellona for all these years. And, it’s amusing that the president says they have been trying their best. Something is amiss.
“But, we respect the president’s call for the dialogue, and so we shall see what he has to put on the table.”