(July 2014 estimate)
Capital: Port Vila
English, French, Bislama
Comprised of over 80 islands in the southwest Pacific, Vanuatu's pristine beaches and active volcanoes intrigue and draw many to its shores. Mountainous tropical rainforests make up much of its terrain. With some of the most remote tribal cultures on earth, seemingly untouched by modernization, these islands appear remarkably disconnected from the rest of the world. Despite being one of the poorest nations in the Pacific, many hold it up as one of the happiest on earth.
Both British and French cultures have influenced Vanuatu since 1887. Having achieved independence in 1980, although followed by some riots and mutinies, Vanuatu now enjoys great political stability under a Parliamentary system led by a President and Prime Minister. Most of the ni-Vanuatu people live as subsistence farmers, and the nation faces significant economic challenges due to devastation from natural disasters (cyclones, earthquakes, tidal waves), high transportation costs, and an undeveloped economic infrastructure. Education resources are limited, and one-third of ni-Vanuatu children never go beyond a primary education. Despite these setbacks, though, the crime and divorce rates are low, and the ni-Vanuatu people enjoy a rich and stable culture.
Christianity has played a major role in Vanuatu's development. Even today, many elected officials were previously leaders in the church. In 2006 Vanuatu rededicated itself to the Lord, coming together in repentance, worship, and prayer, with the president and other government leaders in attendance. Today 94% claim Christianity, of which 73% are Protestant. While Christianity is growing, the Mormons, Baha'i, and Muslims are also actively spreading their teachings. Many are also mixing traditional beliefs with their Christian faith, particularly ancestral spiritism. A deep understanding of the Gospel is needed to protect the ni-Vanuatu from false teachings.
(Used with permission from www.prayercast.com/vanuatu.html.)
The opportunities abound in Vanuatu. The need for more churches is always there, but also there is so much more than can be done. The islands need more Bible teachers to train many of the national leaders as well as Bible translation work in the Bislama language is a pressing need. For more information, please contact BIMI's Southeast Asia Director.