The first Christian missionaries, mainly Presbyterians, were very strict in their beliefs. Their ultimate success in converting the ni- Vanuatu was, among other things, due to the sometimes striking similarities between stories from the Bible and local legends. For example, the stories of the ni-Vanuatu speak of a man and a woman eating forbidden fruit (Adam and Eve in the Bible) and of Tagaro or Tahara, the genius maker of the heavens. They found that name remarkably similar to Jehovah. The pattern used to be that a particular mission would settle in a village, and that village would follow that religion en bloc. Sometimes a village is divided between two or more Christian denominations or traditional religions. As a result, the villages are even physically divided; the different groups live in different parts of the village and are separated by an open plain or a physical barrier.
Vanuatu's traditional religions are mainly based on totemism or ancestor worship. Totemism is the view that the tribe to which one belongs is related to a species or sometimes a plant, and that tribe and species can be traced back to a common ancestor. At present, about 90% of the population is Christian, of which about half is Presbyterian. There are also large groups of Roman Catholics and Anglicans. The non-Christian ni-Vanuatu are mainly followers of the Jon Frum sect and of traditional religions. Followers of the Jon Frum sect believe in a saviour, Jon Frum, who brings prosperity, preceded by ships full of gifts. Jon Frum is therefore also called a 'cargo cult'.
Most Christians are extremely devout, and every larger village has a church building. The majority of the population is Christian: Presbyterian (63%), Anglican and Roman Catholic (together 17%).
O'Byrne, D. / Vanuatu
Stanley, D. / South Pacific Handbook
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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