Melanesian pidgin, English, 120 indigenous languages
Protestant (Church of Melanesia, South Seas Evangelical, Seventh-day Adventist, United Church), Roman Catholic
parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Northeast of Australia in the South Pacific, the Solomon Islands consist of 6 main islands, and 980 smaller ones, that are volcanic and forested—Guadalcanal is the most populous island.
A strategic battleground during World War II, the islands gained independence from Britain in 1978. About 85 percent of the islanders are Melanesians, who speak some 120 indigenous languages. Ethnic tension between natives of Guadal-canal and Malaita island escalated into armed conflict from 1998 until 2003, when an Australian-led peacekeeping force restored order. Most islanders are subsistence farmers, and logging is a major industry.