Mr. Mohammad Alt Jinnah died on Saturday, September 18. Throughout Fiji memorial services were conducted on the following Monday. My wife, son, and I had just come to take up our missionary work in the large town of Ba.
On the morning of September 20 a car pulled up at our home, and three Mohammedans whom I knew by sight got out and came into the sitting room. One was the Ba president of the Moslem League, another a teacher from one of the schools, and the third a chemist from a departmental store in town. They asked me to be present in the local theater by Jo A.M., and they requested that I speak to the congregation in their own language. I eagerly accepted the opportunity, as here was an avenue of becoming known.
I arrived at the theater at the appointed time, and it was packed to capacity. On the rostrum were seated a high government official, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, other Europeans, some of the Moslem leaders of Ba, a Roman Catholic priest, and I.
The first talk was by a young Moslem teacher who spoke in Urdu, outlining Jinnah's life and good works. The next was the government official who spoke through an interpreter, giving his condolences to the people. Then followed the manager of the sugar company, and he also had an interpreter. The manager of a large sungum school, a Hindu, spoke next, followed by another Hindu who is a member of the legislative council. Then came my turn. It was my first meeting of this kind, so I silently asked God's guidance.
As I arose I was asked whether I cared for an interpreter. I declined, and having dispensed with a formal introduction, began with "Brothers all _____________ " I made good use of Paul's words, "I have fought a good fight, . . . I have kept the faith." A murmur of appreciation went around the theater. Then I quoted the poem :
"Lives of great men all remind us
We must make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints in the sands of time."
I continued to elaborate on Paul's words. I mentioned in my talk that I too was born in a large Mohammedan city, Allahabad, India. Once again there went round the theater a murmur of approval. Finally I concluded on the same note as I had begun; and when I sat down, the audience nearly went out of control in their enthusiasm. Had it not been for the solemn occasion. I believe those Moslems would have demanded more. God blessed my effort, giving the necessary thought for the occasion, and I experienced a wonderful flow of Hindustani.
The Molvie, or Mohammedan teacher, then spoke, and with tear-filled eyes gave his discourse, from time to time quoting what I had said. The Roman Catholic priest was not permitted to speak.
After the meeting, as I made my way to my car, I was thronged by these dear people who are following the teachings of the false prophet. They wrung my hands and thanked me for the message, and one man said, "Padre sahib, that talk of yours was like chutney to the dry repetitions that were previously given."
In this town of Ba there are a Methodist minister, Roman Catholic priests, an Assembly of God pastor, and some Christian Scientists, but I am the only minister who can speak to the Indians in their own language.