The missionary ship "Duff" arriving at Tahiti in 1797. Image: National Library of New Zealand
When is Missionary Day?
How long until Missionary Day?
|This holiday next takes place in 345 Days.|
Dates of Missionary Day
|Marks the arrival of the London Missionary Society (LMS) missionaries on 5 March 1797|
Missionary Day (French: Arrivée de l'Evangile) is a public holiday in French Polynesia, observed on 5th March.
It commemorates the arrival of the Christian missionaries on 5 March 1797.
History of Missionary Day
French Polynesia, the only overseas country of France, is a collection of over 100 islands and atolls in the South Pacific Ocean. Its remote location means it was one of the last places on Earth to become inhabited by humans.
The first inhabitants arrived from Western Polynesia in about 200 AD. The islands were sighted by the great Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Most of the major colonial powers explored the various islands and the islander's first encounter with Christian missionaries was with Spanish priests who would stay on the islands for up to a year.
In March 1797, Protestant missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS) arrived, establishing a permanent presence in Polynesia.
The LMS had been formed a few years earlier with the intention of spreading Christianity across the world.
The 'Duff' arrived in Matavai Bay, Tahiti on 5 March 1797, with seventeen missionaries who intended to build friendships with the locals, build a mission house for sleeping and worship, and learn the native language. The missionaries faced initial resistance from the locals who had seen the arrival of earlier European ships bring new and unknown diseases to the islands. Eight of the seventeen missionaries left when the next British ship arrived in Tahiti.
The ones that stayed eventually had success in converting the locals including Pomare II, the king of Tahiti, who was converted from traditional beliefs to the Reformed tradition. This conversion formed the basis for the Maohi Protestant Church which is the largest in French Polynesia with followers accounting for more than half the population.