Monday, October 01, 2007

Ratu Joni on Christianity as an identity for Fijians

Monday, October 01, 2007

CHRISTIANITY is one form of identity for many Fijians as it distinguishes them from the Hindu and Islamic beliefs of Indo-Fijians, said former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

He made the comments while addressing Fiji Indigenous Business Council members at their annual general meeting on Saturday night in Suva.

"In his remarks both before and after 5th December, 2006, the Commander (Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama) has often criticised the Methodist Church and the newer Christian denominations for misleading their followers," he said. "For many Fijians their Christian faith is seen as part of their identity. It is what distinguishes them from the Hindu and Islamic beliefs of Indo-Fijians."

"Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue has never been encouraged in our society because of our history of separation and the entrenchment of colonial policies. To be fair, the faith communities of Indo-Fijians have not been accommodating either."

Ratu Joni said Fijians and Indo-Fijians alike had fed off this distance even though the Christian faith required believers to be good neighbours the meaning of which Christians needed to put more thought and prayers into.

He said the aggressiveness and assertiveness displayed by the new evangelical churches needed to be re-examined in relation to the co-existence and relationship of the Fijians and Indo-Fijians.

He said an approach based on example and practical teaching could be far more fruitful for all concerned. In June, Commodore Bainimarama had accused leaders of the Methodist Church of deliberately misleading their followers to accomplish their own political agenda.

This was after church acting general secretary Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu along with the Assembly of Christian Churches of Fiji objected to the National Council for Building a Better Fiji.

Commodore Bainimarama said Mr Waqairatu's public statements were misleading and mischievous. Their submission to the Peoples Charter for Change and Progress called on the interim Government to immediately put a stop to the councils implementation. He accused Mr Waqairatu of trying to whip up Fijian emotions. Ratu Joni said Fijians were proud of their identities and that basically meant culture and values.

"The most important aspect of that I believe is language. It is as significant as land. Without it, we do not have any means to view, interpret and understand in our own terms the world around us. As we become more urbanized, our children will more readily use English. It is not just the spoken word."

"It is the heritage that accompanies it the poetry, the short stories, the history, the meke, the chants, the longer writings. This we need to ensure our language remains vibrant and alive."

Ratu Joni said ways to ensure the Fijian dialect was retained, needed to be found or it could easily disappear.

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