The Coming of the Light Celebrations

30-06-2020
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Re-enactment of Dabad meeting missionaries - Coming of The Light Celebration, July 2013, The Monthly

For thousands of years, Torres Strait Islanders have had a deep connection with the sea, the land and the sky. The Torres Strait Islands lie between Cape York Peninsula and Papua New Guinea comprising at least 274 islands across 48 000 square kilometres. Historically, the islanders were fishermen, agriculturalists and hunters with deep traditions, customs and beliefs. 

On 1 July 1871, Reverend Samuel McFarlane and Reverend Archibald Murray of the London Missionary Society arrived on Erub (Darnley Island).  Warrior clan Elder of Erub, Dabad, observed this arrival. Dabad went down to the water ready to slay them in defence of his people. At his approach, Rev McFarlane dropped to his knees on the beach and presented The Bible to Dabad. Dabad accepted The Bible – the ‘Light’ - and so Christianity was introduced to the Torres Strait Islands. The Torres Strait Islanders incorporated Christian beliefs, rituals and ceremonies into their existing traditional beliefs and culture. As the good news that God is love spread and was adopted, peace and stability replaced clashes and raids.

This transition from ‘darkness to light’ is celebrated by Torres Strait Islanders annually on July 1 with church services and cultural ceremonies; continuing the Torres Strait Islanders’ long history of storytelling through dancers and re-enactments of that powerful encounter on the beach. 

Information compiled by The Wesley Hospital Reconciliation Action Plan Committee.

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Artwork by Racy Pitt, Coming of the Light. State Library Queensland

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Erub islanders celebrated the Coming of the Light on July 1, 2018. ABC.