Fiji Military Seizing Methodist Church Leaders | Stuff.co.nz

Click to read Stuff story Fiji Military Seizing Methodist Church Leaders | Stuff.co.nz 
Story amended.
Rev Ilaitia Tuwere and his wife Jese
The difficulty for overseas readers in reading this is that they will equate the Methodist Church in Fiji with the Methodist Church (and other churches) in Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere.  They do, of course,  share similar spiritual roles and both are engaged in "politics."  But there the similarly ends.

"Politics" for overseas church leaders means working to promote social and moral issues for the perceived benefit of all the population. "Politics" for the Fiji Methodist leadership means advancing what they perceive to be the interests of ethnic Fijians (or, more precisely, perceived traditional relationships) with scant regard for other races, many of whom are neither Christian nor Methodist. Some 95% Fiji Methodists are ethnic Fijians. Some 43% of Fiji's population is not ethnic Fijian.

To better understand the situation one needs to trace its roots. The separation of spiritual and secular authority, and economic and political power, which emerged in the West as societies evolved from feudal to capitalist societies, was not evident in  Fiji.   And what was assumed to be traditional practice was left untouched by colonial authorities, who found it cheaper to administer ethnic Fijians indirectly, through their chiefs.

"Fijian 'collective consciousness' and 'identity' was — and is" — what a former, and more liberal, Church leader, the Rev. Ilaitia Tuwere, in 1997 called the "inseparable union of vanua (land), lotu (church) and matanitu (state). Their union is so complete that if one is affected, the whole is affected." [My emphasis.]

The Methodist Church assumed the mantle of lotu in this triumverate, and for this reason some of its leaders endorsed the 1997 Rabuka and 2000 Speight coups when ethnic Fijian hegemony — and control of the Fiji matanitu (state) —  was seen to be threatened following elections which resulted in their 'approved' political party losing power.

Church leaders promoted and took part in the Speight coup which overthrew the legally elected government led by Mahendra Chaudhry.   And they supported Qarase's SDL-led party that was ousted by Bainimarama in 2006. This is why they oppose the Bainimarama Government, the People's Charter and early attempts at dialogue,  and why their leadership refuse to comply with Government's insistence that "politics" be kept out of the Annual Conference meetings. Overseas Methodists do not tell their members to support a particular political party. The Fiji Methodist Church endorses one or another ethnic Fijian political party. This is a very importance difference. "Politics" has a different meaning.

In the current standoff, the Fiji Church had the right to decide who would chair its meetings, even if asked not to do so by Government. It chose to ignore Government requests because its leaders were upholding their lotu role, handed down from an idealised and largely fossilised tradition that is under threat from social change — no less than from the Bainimarama government. They are part the ethnic Fijian "establishment" (a role they share with the Great Council of Chiefs, the Fijian Affairs Board, the Native Lands Trust Board or Fiji Holdings Ltd) that has perverted democracy in Fiji for many years.

If Fiji is to move towards a more genuine and inclusive democracy, its institutional structures need to be  modernised: with the role of the Great Council of Chiefs limited to ethnic Fijian matters and the Methodist Church limited to spiritual, social and political affairs — without party political strings attached. Fiji now belongs to all its people, not just the itaukei,  and governments must ensure it remains so.

One wonders what the Rev. Tuwere would advise. Would he have urged the Church to take the political step of defying Government, or would he have recommended the Church adopt a more conciliatory position, with the intention of allowing the Conference to proceed?  And what would he had advised Government  whose answers to too many issues seem to rely on force, rather than persuasion, no matter how many times the persuasion has failed?

This is what he said two years ago as reported on ABC's Pacific Beat: "A former President of the Fiji Methodist Church has called for the controversial church conference next month to be cancelled to save the country from further unrest. Several top church leaders are now facing charges over their decision to go ahead with the annual conference in open defiance of the interim government's decision to ban it.

Reverend Ilaitia Tuwere says blame for the standoff should be equally shared between the church and the interim government. The former church president says that the Methodist leadership should have dropped all political issues from its conference agenda, but the has government overreacted with its series of arrests. "
-- Crosbie Walsh

Comments

concerned said…
As a methodist in Fiji, I cannot understand why the church leaders would continue the stand they've had since 'forever'. The methodist church need's to decide now whether its a political body or a religious body!
Anonymous said…
You are very harsh on the Methodist Church of Fiji, ignoring the significant Indian Division members and also the many Methodists of good-will with a kindness in their heart for a multicultural society. And what's this about Sevati up there on a cloud - what do you mean by that?
It was interesting that soldiers went to visit Rev Josateki - perhaps it was his paper that was published in a blog, though it was years old. Now Jo is eighty and he stood his ground and refused to go with them. Vinaka Jo.
Kai Vavalagi
Miaw said…
I'm convinced that there is a special place in hell for these modern day "holier than thou" pharisees which has passed for Methodist Church leadership in Fiji since May 1987 !!!
Group think said…
Croz
Group think and denial might help you and the handful of coup supporters feel good momentarily but the reality is that this junta will continue to be under pressure until it is removed...and it will be, brutally if necessary. How it comes to an end is their call but if sharon and your other friends have any sense, it would be unwise to resist arrest.
Whom Error doth benight said…
Reverend Tuwere was quite mistaken with his typical: "Have your cake and eat it" response.

This is not a situation which permits of fruitcake answers to prevail. The Methodist Church of Fiji is unrecognisable as a Church, is devoid of christian value under its present benighted leadership. It has become a 'machine' - a 'deus ex machina' designed to benight and to immerse the masses in error.

Time for all adherents to take charge of the values side of things? Would any Methodist Church anywhere else in the world permit such perfidy within its walls?

The lali was being sounded just over the hill on Sunday at 0530hrs: in contravention of the Crimes Decree of 2009. To what purpose? To disseminate Christian values and light?

"I am like to be benighted for the day is almost spent" (John Bunyan - of "Pilgrims Progress".
Anonymous said…
These preachers have unashamedly used the pulpit and the forum of the Methodist Church to promote racism in Fiji. Christianity is about love and these were the devil's advocates preaching and pursuing policies that were racist and discriminatory. When religion infiltrates politics, demoracy is either weakened or destroyed. Fiji has paid its price and these racial bigots have blood on their hands!
Group think and denial might help you and the handful of coup supporters feel good momentarily but the reality is that this junta will continue to be under pressure until it is removed....
jobs in new zealand
Group think and denial might help you and the handful of coup supporters feel good momentarily but the reality is that this junta will continue to be under pressure until it is removed....
jobs in new zealand
Anonymous said…
I think Frank has been too lenient with these morons. They too should be relegated to "grog under a mango tree". I didnt know that Satan wrote a bible as well. It has been on display by the methos for sometime now. Enough is enough, as the saying goes. There is no place for racism in today's society. We may disagree with Frank's way of doing things, but he is from a military back ground and also much better than all other leaders we had in the past. He should be given all the support and time to achieve his objectives for the good of Fiji.

@Croz, the PER is there for a good reason, we can all see that now.
Anonymous said…
I honestly think that the Government here is interfering into the affairs of the Methodist Church. The Church leaders had promised Government that there would be no political discussion during the Conference. The Government did not believe in the promise, hence the ban and the demand that Church leaders believed to be political should step down from their leadership roles. Here I am still to find that process wherein the State should separate itself from Religion.
i-Taukei military said…
Croz
Of course it is totally inappropriate for a government to put the restrictions such as we have seen on a religion. However this is not a government, it is a military junta, therefore it can do what it likes. Even blind freddy can see that the self appointed 'PM' is also the head of the military that took over an elected government with guns? All military dictatorships go the same way. Such dictators are hated, condemned and despised by the people. And therefore can only stay in power by force, intimidation and repression. If you think this junta is taking Fiji forward you are truely and sadly very mistaken.
Anonymous said…
The state has not intervened and isolated any other denomination because it is only the Methodists who think that they have a God-given right to hijack politics and democracy in Fiji. They received their rewards - Lasaro became a senator for supporting the Govt. I bet he has preached to others forgiveness, reconciliation and love but he cannot show his true grit and seek forgiveness from Rev Koroi who was unceremoniously removed in Methodist Church coup in 1987. All indications are that they still want to retain their wickedness, forgetting that they will have to answer for their 'crimes' to Him.
Kindness is insufficient! said…
@ Anonymous 23 & 25 August 2011

No one wishes to ignore any division of the Methodist Church if they have been 'Adding Value' to the benefit of all mankind.

If, however, they have failed as a division of the institution to hold their leaders to account, to promote a Christian ideal of inclusion through Love, then they too are culpable of collusion and of failures of the principles of Good Governance. They would have permitted significant others amongst their number to preach racial hatred and by this to promote violence and, by association, even death.

Is this harsh? That is for them and the 'significant others' to judge after some very significant soul-searching.

Note also that "kindness" is insufficient. Jesus Christ in the New Testament calls for nothing less than a Gospel of Love.

Is the Methodist Church of Fiji founded on the precepts of the Old Testament or the New? Or both?

Or has it conveniently under present leadership sought a way peculiar to itself? Which sets it apart from the integrity and unity of the state thus becoming a State within a State?

This has appeared to be the case. Not just 'appeared' : there is evidence that it is and has been so for a prolonged period of time. During this time, the unity of the state has suffered thus threatening the very survival of the whole.
lack of faith said…
While the Methodist Church leaders have demonstrated a disloyal lack of faith in their divine leader to address our political problems in His own way in His own time , political leaders have gone out of their way like wolves in sheep's clothing to enlist their support to advance their own political agenda and they are the ones who most deserve to rot in Hell.
Anonymous said…
In the end the Methodists will win control of Fiji and there enthno nationlist corruption will reign.

Fiji will be a Christian State but not of Christ.

In 30 years Fiji's population will be 1.6 million and in one lifetime 60 years we will be seeing a population of over 3.5 million.
It will be a cesspool of poverty,ignorance, corruption and crime.
The Methodists will rule over this cesspool of stink and continue to offer up leaders cut from the same cloth.
After all the audience mustlove it, to vote for it, which is what a democracy is all about!
end of an era said…
The old order in the Methodist Church will give way to the new and there is hope in our youth as demonstrated by their representatives at the Hibiscus Festival. The end of a Methodist era is nigh and surely goodness and mercy will reign.

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