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The Coming of the Light

Torres Strait Islanders celebrate 1st July as The Coming of the Light, a yearly holiday in the Torres Strait.

One Saturday evening, 1st July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane of the London Missionary Society anchored at Erub (Darnley Island). The Society had been active in the Southwest Pacific since the 1840’s converting people to Christianity.

Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub, “defied his Tribal Law” and openly welcomed the London Missionary Society clergymen and South Sea Islander evangelists and teachers. Torres Strait Islanders acknowledgment of the missionaries was the acceptance of a change that would profoundly affect every aspect of life in the Torres Strait from that time onwards.

The Islanders acceptance of the missionaries and Christianity meant the end of inter island conflict. Christian principles were partly compatible with traditional religion and the missionaries gave some protection and assistance to Islanders in their contact with foreigners in the maritime industry.

Today, Torres Strait Islanders of all denominations wherever they live, in the islands or on the mainland, come together to honour this anniversary. The Torres Strait Islander festival of the Coming of the Light is a day like no other in Australia.

Church services and a re-enactment of the landing at Kemus on Erub are central to the day’s activities. Hymn singing, feasting and Ailan dans strengthen community and family ties.

In 1996 Torres Strait Islanders celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the Coming of the Light.