Where in the World is Vanuatu?
VANUATU, formerly called New Hebrides, is an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific. In 1980, it gained independence from Britain and France who had jointly ruled it since 1906. Its geography is mountainous with several volcanoes, and because of the dense tropical jungles, most cultivated land is near the coasts.
Its people are Melanesian who speak over 100 indigenous languages, although a growing number of ni-Vans speak Bislama – the trade language – as their first language. English and some French are also used. The majority of the ni-Van population are religious (Presbyterian, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Church of Christ, 7th Day Adventist, Assembly of God, & Baptist). Some–especially those in the interior–still hold to traditional (‘kastom’) beliefs.
Mission work began in the 1800’s – around the same time that traders came (pearls, sandalwood, beche-de-mer, copra) and then also black-birders ( a type of slave traders). John Paton is one of the first missionaries who ministered among these island people, and he was also instrumental in ending the practice of black birding.