In a society without institutions, family is all we have. If we have no family, then we have nothing at all. And that, according to reports I’ve recently received, is precisely the situation that one young woman is facing today.

The details are sketchy at best, and possibly incorrect in some regards, but the story is heart-breaking: A young woman defies her family and marries without approval. When the marriage turns rocky, she and her son are turned out of their home. In punishment for her willfulness, her family won’t take her back. Bereft, she takes to sleeping in parks, cadging food where she can, eating only after her son has fed.

If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s the display of common Christian kindness shown by so many in the tale as it was told to me. Good Samaritans have given her money, food and even short-term shelter. One woman, barren herself, even offered to adopt her unborn child.

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

In Parliament, Speaker George Wells is ousted by his own party and VRP leader Maxime Carlot Korman takes his place.

On one short stretch of road in the Freswota neighbourhood alone, one passes no less than 4 small churches.

Not far away, in the bandstand in Freswota Park, a homeless woman, 8 months pregnant, sleeps with her 1-year-old child.

Each of these fragments, taken on its own, paints a curious picture. Piece them together, though, and we begin to understand the corner of the world we live in.

Since Independence, the number of political parties has steadily increased. Likewise the number of independent candidates. Factionalism within the parties continues unchecked. This phenomenon has been documented, studied and commented at length.

Our churches are following a similar trajectory. A pet hypothesis of mine is that the increase in the number and variety of churches (mostly inspired by American Pentecostalism) over the last few decades runs almost perfectly parallel to the number and variety of political groupings.

I suspect that the cause of each trend is the same: Vanuatu society is inherently anti-institutional. Once compelling outside forces are removed from the equation, it tends to look inward, to family first, and then to community.

Some commentators see this as a bad thing. I don’t. Not necessarily.

Read more “Fragments”