Daily Reading for June 6 • Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945
From 1925 when the Brotherhood began Ini ruled it for 15 years, and no Brother ever questioned his absolute authority, not because he was the Founder, but because of the force of his personality. What things stood out in his character? First, I think his spirituality: prayer was a very real thing with Ini: he was the most reverent Melanesian I have known, and that is saying a lot. God was in all his thoughts. Second, his joyousness, he was almost always in high spirits, full of fun, full of the joy of being alive, it was good to live with him. Third, his deep understanding of the thoughts of Melanesians. At Brothers’ meetings when disputes were often hot, Ini always knew who was really in the wrong and generally got that Brother to say so. Fourth, his common sense, he always knew what was practicable and kept discussions to that reverent, joyful, sympathetic, wise, these the “Brothers” knew him to be. He was not popular with the White staff who thought him conceited. There was a little truth in this, for he felt his own gifts, though I don’t think the conceit went deep; but also he was very sensitive to colour feeling. He thought it all wrong that every Melanesian, because of his colour, should be inferior to every white man because of his colour, yet he felt there was this feeling even within the Mission.
This is not the place to write of the Brotherhood, of Ini’s founding of the order of Companions of the Brothers, and of his other ideas, the children of an impulsive but very original mind. 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. One of my memories is of that baptism, when Ini and I stood waist deep in the very cold water of that mountain river for several hours, while streams of people came to us from the heathen side, were baptised by us and passed over to the Christian side, where the Bishop sat in his chair on a high grassy bank with the few already Christians round him. There the newly baptised dressed in white loincloths, and finally a great procession, led by the Cross, set off for the church, a procession so long that they were singing different hymns in different parts without releasing it, or caring either, so joyful did they feel. That is just one of the many memories of Ini. What great days those were!
From “Ini Kopuria” by Charles E. Fox, in Southern Cross Log (New Zealand Edition), June 1, 1946, pages 21-24. Found at http://anglicanhistory.org/oceania/brotherhood/kopuria_obituary1946.html