“This Holy Sacrament Of Service In Fiji” Christianity And The Abolition Of Indo-Fijian Indenture
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This thesis explores the influence of Christianity on the end of Indian indenture in early 20thcentury British Fiji. Fiji became a colony in 1874 and, due to the influence of initial colonial governor Arthur Gordon Hamilton, the Fijians were protected from recruitment to the growing sugar industry on the island. To make up for the shortage of labor, Indians were brought on 5-year indentured labor contracts. The Indians had to work in oppressive conditions which became more exploitative as the years went on. Many of them stayed in Fiji due to the fact that a passage back to India would cost them another 5 years of indenture, a total of 10 years. The system continued relatively unexamined until the 1910s, when the Indian populace and legislature became interested in their citizens overseas. Several scholars have examined the effect of the Indian government on the end of indenture, but few have looked at the effect of Christianity. Many significant critics regarding the injustices of the system were either clergymen or missionaries. These men and women were typically on the margins of the church. Even in Fiji, the critics were those who felt marginalized or underappreciated in their position. They spoke out against indenture in spite of the Fijian Wesley Methodist Church’s complacency. It took men and women of faith, not tied to the government or church establishment, to unearth the abuses of the Fijian indenture system. This thesis discusses the history of indenture in Fiji and its abolition, specifically looking at impacts of the reports of J. W. Burton, C. F. Andrews and Florence Garnham. It also analyzes the complacency of the Fijian church due to the lack of evangelistic success and monetary ties.