New Caledonia - (Ocenania)

Information about New Caledonia

19103 square kilometres
Roman Catholic 67%, Protestant 25%(Ref, Advent, Pent) other 10%
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

Discovered in 1774 by James Colnett, a midshipman of Captain Cook, New Caledonia — also nicknamed “le caillou” (the stone) — is located some 2,000 km east of Australia. It comprises the main island and the Loyalty Islands (Ouvéa, Lifou, and Maré). It was first settled by the British, then in 1853 by the French, who also used the islands for the banning of their convicts. Nickel and cobalt mines soon attracted settlers and called for a labor force from abroad. In 1996 nickel comprised 90% of the country’s exports; New Caledonia is presently the second largest cobalt producer in the world. The development of agriculture in the early 1890s by settlers coming from France created serious land disputes. Land is an essential part of Melanesian culture and self-understanding. As early as 1878 the indigenous Kanak people revolted against the French occupiers. First steps toward autonomy were made after World War II. Since 1956 New Caledonia has been a French Overseas Department (District). In the 1980s political life was marked by serious and frequent bloodshed. New parties like the FLNKS (Front de libération national kanak et socialiste) fought for independence. The “Accords of Matignon,” signed in 1988, foresaw a number of steps, including a referendum on “self-determination” to settle the political future of the “caillou.”
The first Christian missionaries arrived in New Caledonia in 1840. They were Polynesian Prot catechists. Twelve years later the first European missionaries arrived; they were sent by the LMS. RCath presence dates back to 1851 — two years before France took possession of the islands — when a mission was created on the Pines Island. The SMP took over in 1897 by sending the missionary Delord to the island of Maré. He was soon to be followed by the pastor and ethnologist Maurice Leenhard, who settled on the eastern coast of the main island.


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