MISSION WORK AT FIJI.
WHAT THE METHODISTS HAVE DONE. INTERVIEW WITH REV. W. R. POOLE. British people always seem to have a deep interest in mission work amongst the heathen; in fact it appears easier to raise funds for that work than to carry on similar institutions amongst the -white pagans at home. Probably one reason is that the missionaries always have so many interesting stories to relate of their experiences. Facts of a , idifferent description were/ however, given to a representative of the Auckland Star by the Rev. W. R. Poole, of Thakaundrove, Fiji, who is at present on a visit to his parents in this city, and his brother, Mr C." H. Poole, M.P. for Auckland West. Asked if he was here for a holiday, Mr Poole said:—"l am about to commence a three months' deputation through the North Island of this Dominio-ri in the interests of the Australasian Methodist Missionary Society. It is under the auspices of that Society that our work is carried on in Fiji." "How long have you been stationed at Fiji?" "About six years. My circuit extends for 120 miles and I have to get round by means of a small launch. In my own district there are 80 churches and 42 other preaching stations, with seven native ministers, 93 catechists,' J62 local preachers, 388 class leaders, 2365 native members and 291 on trial. There are. also 100 Sunday schools. 20l> teachers. 14SS scholars, 105 day schools with 189 teachers and 1230 scholars. The attendants on public worship number in my district 6745. "The general returns at the end of 1908 show a total of 902 churches in Fiji, 289 other places, 15 missionaries, 7 sisters. 89 native missionaries, 91 catechists. 941 teachers, 3494 local preachers, 5887 class leaders, 35.123 alßtive members, 4731 on trial, 7320 catechumes, ' 1116 Sunday schools, 2591 teachers. 24,425 scholars, 1114 day schools, 2178 teachers. 17.162 scholars, and 85,632 attendants at public worship." "Are there no other churches conducting missions in Fiji?" "The Roman Catholics have missions, and I think their adherents number about 10,000. The Seventh Day Adventists have also done a little mission work." "When did the Methodist mission start operations ?" "In 1835 the Rev William Cross and David Cargill, with their wives and native attendants", arrived in the Blackbird at the island of Lakemba in the inward group. It was not until the 23rd of March of the following year that the first convert was baptised. To-day, 23 years from the landing of the missionaries, there are now in Fiji in connection with our missions. 428 chapels, 236 catechists, seven European missionaries, two school masters, 114 local preachers. 1126 school teachers. 464 day schools. £3j991 pleholars, 60,000 attendants at public worship and 8138 church members. it was slow work at first, and up to the conversion of King Cakebau. the mission had expended over £80,000," "I notice that you undertake also the education of the natives as well as their' religious instruction." "I may say that the Methodists have ione practically the "whole -*>f tliey'edu-' eational work in Fiji for the ' native people. It is only in quite recent years that the Government' has tlcme much in that direction. Our central theological training institution is now at VauluJevu. under the charge of Rev. W. F. Bennett, M.A. Then we have a high school and an Indian mission.", "Amongst the coolies?" "Yes; you know there are about 35,----000 Indians in Fiji and as they are increasing while the Fijians are decreasing, there is a difficult problem ahead." "But I thought they were under contract, and had to be returned to their own land?" "The Indians come out under a five years' contract to the Sugar Company, but it is optional with them- whether they return to their own country at the end of that period, consequently a good number elect to remain in Fiji. Some of fhera hire land of the Fijians and begin cane growing, others start little stores and come into direct competition with the Europeans." "Do Indians inter-marry -with Fijians?" "There appears to be little intercourse between the Indians and the Fijians. I am afraid we have to face the problem of the possibility of the land lapsing back into heathenism if the Indians continue to increase and the Fijians decrease. It is for that reason that e we have an Indian mission, which is under the supervision of the Rev. J. W. Burton. A handsome church has been erected, and a school is very well attended by Indian boys and girls. Still the work is necessarily slow, as we have to deal with Hindoos and Mahomedans. In fairness to the Indians I would like to state that in many cases our own people do not set the Indians the best example, and ivhen outrages by coolies are reported. it is to be feared that they are usually punishment for offences committed ngainst them." "Can you tell anything of the system of education given in schools?" "Well, we are coming to the idea that technical is the best form of education for Fijians. We are now endeavouriag to teach them how to improve their land and get better returns. We have an agricultural class at our education institute." "Do you consider that the Fijians are dying out?" "In some districts, I am sorry to say. they are. It is not so much due to a decline in the birth rate, as to infantile mortality. We are doing our best to teach the mothers how to rear their infants. The decrease is also ascribed to other causes. The Government has done a great deal towards helping the natives by having established hospitals in almost every district, with the result that a great many lives have been saved, that under tho old system of native treatment would been lost. The Government is also now training young Fijian girls as ■nur3es and men as native medical practitioners. Of course, all these require to be under the supervision of the Europeans."
"What is the outlook for the croup'" "I consider that Fiji is progressing very well. The Government has done a good deal in the direction of briinnno large areas of land under cultivation 3 and making them productive. Then of course, the plantations of the Sugar Company are very large. The coolies do the bulk of the labour, although m™ 6 -*™ 1 ** 5 have also bßc » imported The Fijian will not work unless he is forced to do so. in order to get mn-ev to procure some hmiry he desires Tbev Z n,?$ hap \ wo r k **_> or three months to build a church or buy a boat, but do not go on steadily. When cotton was grown at Fiji there was a larger Enro-
p'ean population than there is at the present time. After the prices dropped, - a lot of people left the group. The ex- ; port trade of the group is now growing Bteadily. We have some magnificent plantations of cocoanuts, and a greatnumber of cattle are raised. On one T;inch there is a fine herd of 1000 head ol Herefords. We have also got rubber plantations at Fiji, but it is too soon yet to state whether they will he a sue- : cess. The prospects for the rubber are, . however, considered very promising. .; Then, of course, we have a big export b! V bananas, and there is talk just now otv,'■.,; a direct line of steamers being started' from Melbourne to Suva. We also grow a little cocoa and the Vanualeyu tea . plantation is doing, big business. With : all these different industries, I consider that Fiji has a hig future."
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