Vanuatu loses “a true and humble man”
Church leader, Pastor Allen Nafuki, from the island of Erromango in Vanuatu’s south, passed away over the weekend at his home in Port Vila.
Pastor Allen was the Chairman of the Vanuatu Christian Council of Churches and the Clerk of the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu.
He was a unifying force in Vanuatu; had served the country as a politician in the 1990s; and was a strong campaigner for an end to human rights abuses in West Papua.
The Vanuatu Christian Council of Churches described Pastor Allen, who had served as an MP for Tafea Outer Islands, as a leader of unity.
The Secretary General of the Vanuatu Christian Council of Churches, Pastor Shem Temar, said Pastor Allen was “committed and passionate in doing God’s work”.
“The Late Pastor Allen Nafuki was a true and well-spoken leader who strongly encouraged indigenous leadership,” he said.
“He spoke out and represented Vanuatu churches in all sectors across Vanuatu.”
He said Pastor Allen’s influence had been felt in different authorities across the Pacific region and the world.
Through his work with the church, Pastor Allen had helped unite people across Vanuatu’s islands in the lead up to the country gaining its Independence.
He was a contributor to all of Vanuatu’s Independence milestones: helping to draft the national Constitution and choose a new name, national anthem and motto for the nation.
He also coordinated churches to join the nuclear-free Pacific movement, and was a tireless advocate for human rights in West Papua.
“He wanted freedom for the Kanaky [people] in New Caledonia and for West Papuans,” Pastor Temar said.
He says Pastor Allen was widely involved in discussions on the independence of these two Pacific countries.
In 2009, Allen organised a historic reconciliation between the descendants of the slain British missionary, the Reverend John Williams, and the descendants of the murdering families.
Pastor Temar said Pastor Allen was a leader who made sure Christianity was reflected in every sector across Vanuatu.
“This is a big loss for Vanuatu,” he said.
Former Vanuatu Prime Minister, Joe Natuman, said Vanuatu had lost “a strong banyan tree”.
Mr Natuman went to school with Pastor Allen at the Onesua Presbyterian College in the 1960s.
He said at that time Pastor Allen was one of several friends who studied to become pastors and contributed to Vanuatu’s struggle for Independence.
Mr Natuman says Tafea and Vanuatu has lost a true and humble man.
“I am so sorry to hear the sudden news of his passing away,” he said.
Mr Natuman said the late pastor had always been there when Vanuatu’s leaders went wrong, and would always be there in the future to direct them and show them the right path to follow.
Freddy Waromi of the West Papua Office in Port Vila says the office is greatly saddened by Pastor Allen’s passing.
“I want to thank the Vanuatu population of more than 300,000 people, for having such a man as Pastor Allen, who was committed to the struggle for the freedom of West Papua,” Mr Waromi said.
“We will always remember him and will put his name in our golden records.
“Late Pastor Allen once told me that he hoped West Papua would get its independence quickly so we could go and visit there.
“I am so sad to have lost him.”
Pastor Temar says Pastor Allen was in his seventies when he passed away.
“We know he has been sick and needed rest,” he said.
“The Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu had requested he step down from his positions as the clerk of the church and Chairman of the Vanuatu Council of Churches.
“But he said he would not step down and would work until his time ended.”
Many public servants, those in the private sector, the government and the public attended Pastor Allen’s funeral service at the Malasitapu Church in Port Vila to pay their last respects to the great leader.
Pastor Allen Nafuki will be flown back to his home island, Erromango, to be late to rest.