New Caledonia (Kanaky)
New Caledonia belongs to the Melanesian part of the Pacific. It was inhabited by indigenous people when France took possession of it in 1853. It has the status of an overseas territory. The Kanak community constitutes 42 percent of the population; the second largest group are the French (37 percent) and immigrant groups from the Pacific and Asia form another 17 percent. The island has 25 percent of the world's resources of nickel. In the 1970s the Kanaks began to organize themselves in political parties with the aim to achieve independence. Violence erupted in the 1980s, which led to the Agreements of Matignon in 1988, establishing a territorial congress and government, and a referendum on independence to be held in ten years time. In 1989, the disappointment among the Kanaks resulted in the assassination of their leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, by one of his own people. The 1998 referendum failed to establish independence because of the antiindependent position of the French and other population groups. It was followed by the Nouméa Agreement that same year, stipulating further devolution of powers, introducing New Caledonian citizenship and granting the right to the territorial congress to call another referendum on independence after 2014. The Evangelical Church in New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, which is the largest Protestant church and 86 percent Kanak, has been deeply involved in supporting the independence movement. The Catholic Church has a higher membership among the other population groups.