The great extinguisher of conflict …

Years ago, I had the privilege of enjoying a week of vacation in Fiji, a remarkably beautiful spot on this Earth, and a remarkable place in general.

On the long flight from my home in California, I did some reading about the history of this island nation and discovered an interesting contradiction. The various tourism information I had read about Fiji promoted the islands as being home to the “friendliest people on Earth,” yet my perusal of history revealed Fiji as being the land of the original cannibals!

That didn’t sound too friendly to me!

Just what amount of conflict did it take to want to eat your neighbor?!

Did you know that not all cannibals are alike? An exo-cannibal eats only those outside his immediate social circle (e.g., his enemies), while an endo-cannibal will eat those within his immediate social circle (e.g., his friends). A pan-cannibal is indiscriminate, and will eat anyone.

The world’s most infamous cannibal is the legendary 19th century Fijian chieftan, Udre Udre, as described in an article from the Fiji Times:

    Udre Udre holds the Guinness World Record for “most prolific cannibal.”
    Fijian chieftain, Udre Udre, the world’s most notorious cannibal.

    The name Udre Udre still stirs fear in people even though he is said to have died and is buried in Rakiraki.

    From stories passed down generations, Udre Udre was from Draqara in the Nakauvadra mountain range. It was the time when tribal war was going on and people were killed, cleaned and eaten beside a river — a spot known as Kanakana Bridge. … Udre Udre and his people moved to Korolevu and some went to Lovoni …

    “When Udre Udre and his group settled at Korolevu, they used to beat the lali, an idiophonic Fijian drum, from the top of the hill and it could be heard as far as Yaqara,” said Epeli Bukadogo of Vatusekiyasawa Village.

    “From what I was told by my forefathers, the beating of the lali meant Udre Udre was looking for someone to eat. People used to hide their children, who even went and hid themselves when they heard the beating echoing through the mountains. He would go for those who were fat and healthy, even children. If he wanted to eat someone, he would just get that person.”

    Mr. Bukadogo said Udre Udre killed his victims by smashing their heads on a sharp stone. Udre Udre reportedly ate between 872 and 999 people. He kept a stone for each body he ate. The stones were reportedly placed alongside his tomb in Rakiraki.

    According to Udre Udre’s son, the chiefs of Rakiraki would go to the battlefield along with Udre Udre and they would each give him every body part of their victims, especially the head, preserving what he couldn’t eat in one sitting for consumption later.

While the days of cannibalism in Fiji are long over, the biting and devouring of others persists even among us today …

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another,” Galatians 5:15.

Just prior to the Apostle Paul issuing that stern warning, he first reveals what is necessary to extinguish conflict between persons so that we won’t want to “devour” and “destroy” one another:

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” Galatians 5:13-14.

Conflict between people occurs when they are not first yielded and obedient to God, and then not acting in love toward one another. Thus, the first and second greatest commandments from God are those of loving God first, and then loving others (Mt. 22:36-40). Love is the great extinguisher of conflict.

And not just conflict between neighbors or those we sit next to “in church.” It was the love of Christ that transformed the nation of Fiji from being the land of cannibals to “the friendliest people on earth.” Long ago, Christian missionaries landed in Fiji, and through the proclamation of the Gospel, about 50 percent of Fiji’s population today identify themselves as Christian. The love of God permeated the people of Fiji, transforming minds and hearts … and extinguishing conflict.

Does conflict rage in your life? Or have you allowed the love of God to transform your mind and heart, and extinguish the conflicts in your life by extending love others?