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TRIBES IN PACIFIC SWAP CHILDREN TO END VIOLENT FEUD

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VANUATU, Tanna, Australia – Somewhere in the island of Tanna, Vanuatu tribal chiefs designed a move to heal the rift, a young boy and girl will be exchanged between the groups - a practice that has not taken place on the island for more than 200 years
Warring tribes on the tiny Pacific island of Tanna have agreed to swap two children to settle a long-running land dispute that descended into violence.
  • The clans, who have been arguing over property rights on the island for more than two decades, revived the ancient and controversial custom of child swapping in an attempt to end hostilities after the feud turned violent and several people were injured in a brawl. Such a child swap has not taken place in more than 200 years.
  • Seth Kaurua, from the Vanuatu Council of Chiefs, said the feud between the two tribes had been going on for 27 years, but the chiefs had to step in when it turned violent and several people were injured.
  • According to Seth, the practice on Tanna for resolving a dispute, whenever it turns to violence, is that we have to use our traditional way. One tribe gives away a child, female or male, to the other tribe and the other tribe has to do the same. The aim of the exchange was to "build a bridge between the two tribes and make the relationship stronger."
Exchanging children is rare in Tanna, and frowned on by the court system, but it is does take place from time to time. It is not uncommon on the island for a female child to be given away to replace a lost family member - for example if a child is killed in a car accident, the driver could offer one of their own children as reparation.
  • However, a swap involving two large tribes giving up a child had not taken place on the island for more than 200 years, because peace had prevailed, Mr. Kaurua said.
  • "We had a tribal fight 200 years ago and no one has been killed, no fighting since then. So when this dispute happened, people just go back to what happened in the past to resolve it.
  • "Many people in different countries might think it is strange but for us its normal practice, it is a highly respected custom, it is the way we make peace."
  • The child swap itself takes place in an elaborate reconciliation ceremony, in which both tribes gather in a special meeting place. There, the child is paraded in front of the new tribe and the leader of the tribe shakes hands with the child and its parents, indicating that he will accept the boy or girl.
While the child does not have to move to its new tribe immediately, they will grow up in the knowledge that they no longer belong to their parents, and will eventually have to leave, Mr. Kaurua said.
So far, one of the swaps had taken place, involving a girl aged seven, he said. The second swap, involving a boy, is due to take place in the coming weeks.
The children involved often benefitted from the arrangement because they could remain in contact with their family, while gaining a new extended family, he said.
Source: The Telegraph
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