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The Role of Social Change in the Rise and Development of New Religious Groups in the Pacific Islands
In the last 30 years a seemingly insignificant number of New Religious Groups has grown rapidly and reached an average 18 percent of the population in the Pacific Islands. Without overdramatising the situation, it can be said that we have di bid farewell to the "good old times" when the vast majority of Pacific Islanders belonged to one or another of the historic mainline churches established by missionaries from Europe and North America in the last century. Characteristically, these churches in the South Pacific were accustomed to look at the New Groups either with ignorance, indifference, condemnation or rejection. In using written records and extensive interviews and statistics, the author collected invaluable resource materials for this unique study, which can be seen as an attempt to promote a new understanding of New Religious Groups in a Pacific Island context.
As is suggested the causes for the growth and increasing number of "sects" are multifaceted and can be traced back to a general ideological expansion of cultural values from the industrialized western countries, which were compatible with the worldwide expansion of the capitalist mode of production. Most important, however, is the process of ongoing social change and its concomitant crisis symptoms which are responsible for the massive movement of individuals into one or another of the new, salvation promising communities.
Most thought provoking, Ernst's survey was overdue and fills not only a gap in the available literature on contemporary Christianity in the Pacific Islands, but contributes also for the first time to the worldwide discussion on New Religious Groups from a Pacific perspective.