The Republic of Kiribati
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The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribass) consists of 33 scattered atolls in three separate island groups (plus Banaba) in the mid-Pacific, at the equator and International Date Line. The island groups are the former Gilbert Islands in the west (17), the Phoenix Islands (8), and the Line Islands (8). The area of the islands is 717 sq km (277 sq miles). It is thought that the first people to settle the islands were Austronesians thousands of years ago. By the 1300s Fijians and Tongans invaded the islands and intermarried. European explorers came to the area in the 17th century. From the middle of the 19th century commercial ships began to visit the islands taking coconut oil, copra and slaves. Whaling vessels plied the waters near the Gilbert Islands. By 1892 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands put themselves under a British protectorate. By 1900 the discovery of phosphate on Ocean Island (Banaba Island) led to increased interest in the islands by the British. During the Second World War the Japanese invaded the islands and were became the scene of fierce fighting. Self-rule was granted the islanders in 1971 and the Ellice Islands eventually became Tuvalu. Independence came to Kiribati in 1979 and at that time the United States gave up its claims to several of the Line and Phoenix Islands. Today Kiribati is classified as a Least Developed Country by the United Nations. Largely dependent upon foreign aid from the UK and Japan, 25-50% of the gross domestic product, Kiribati depends on tourism for much of its income. Subsistence farming is the major source of revenue for most natives though the islands do export copra, seaweed and fish. The islands are a Republic with a single legislative body known as the National Assembly. However, the traditional chief system is still strongly influential. The population numbers 85,500 with 52.5% percent of the population being Roman Catholic, 41% Congregational and a small percentage of Mormons, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baha’i and others. Since 1993 American Randy English living in American Samoa has been assisting the work of the a cappella Churches of Christ in Kiribati. English and six nationals make use of correspondence courses, evangelistic meetings and workshops to spread the gospel. English is the official language of Kiribati. Johnny Robertson, a resident of the Marshall Islands, also works with the Christians in Kiribati. The congregation meeting in Tarawa is said to be a small but very faithful group and may also operate a school. A congregation also meets on Kiritmati Island (Christmas Island).
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
For further historical reference:
Churches of Christ Around the World, Lynn, Mac, 21st Century Christian Publications, Nashville, TN, 2003.
P.O. Box 1268
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799
Ana Ekateria Kristo (Church of Christ)
P.O. Box 35
Tarawa, Kiribati, South Pacific
Ana Ektaria Kristo (Church of Christ)
Christmas Island (Kiritmati)
Kiribati, South Pacific