Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is the Kingdom of God the here and now or later?

from w
Once again the Methodist Church in Fiji leaders in Suva have made a statement that has upset the military interim government, this time in response to the plan to set up an action group/committee/forum/NCBBF (Fiji loves acronyms) to 'go forward'. Once again Rev Tui has led the church in a forthright statement. Last time this happened, the hierarchy backed down and dithered a bit.

So should the church be on about private spirituality or public life? Is the Kingdom of God about the here and now, or just about an imaginary future/Heaven? I like Tui and I find it offensive when writers in the 'comments' in the Fiji Times are mainly telling him and his like to get back to their soapbox preaching instead of being involved with politics. To me, to sit on the fence is wrong. Jesus was a political person too.

So will the military take offence now and say, hey you, we will send our 'watchers' to your conference in Macuata to make sure you don't incite people! Insight or incite - whatever.

from today's Fiji Times.

Churches oppose national council initiative
Thursday, June 14, 2007

TWO Christian church groups have opposed the setting up of a National Council for Building a Better Fiji.

The Methodist Church in Fiji which enjoys the biggest membership among the Christian churches claims it has the support of its 200,000-plus members. It released a joint statement with the Association of Christian Churches yesterday. The submission is one of the 50 received by the interim administration so far.

They had sought submissions from 150 organisations and individuals. Permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office Parmesh Chand said the submissions were being analysed before being taken to the cabinet sub-committee formed to look into them. The Methodist Church submission calls on the interim Government to immediately stop the council's formation.

This it says is because:

The interim Government has no popular mandate and should restrict itself to taking the nation back to civilian rule through a general election and the restoration of full democracy within the earliest possible timeframe.

After the 1987 coup, a similar operation named "Veivueti" was set up for the same purpose, which led to the politicisation and weakening of some institutions of State and the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji.

Policy initiatives should be left to the elected representatives of the people.

The charter specifies that to achieve its objectives, a 40-member council is to be set up by the President. The church says this is unconstitutional and illegal.

With the suspension of the members of the Great Council of Chiefs, the churches are concerned about the legality of any policy measures affecting Fijian land and administration.

Speaking on behalf of the churches, Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu stressed the concern over the exclusion of key people in the ousted government.

"The churches are concerned that in promoting unity, the interim Government has excluded a major political grouping and elected representatives of a large part of our community," he said.

"It is of serious concern that the nation's elected Prime Minister and the leader of the elected majority government ousted by the military coup in 2006 have been excluded from participating in the discussions on this charter." The churches also condemned the appointment of senior military officers to key government positions.

They specifically referred to the appointment of deputy military commander Captain Esala Teleni as Police Commissioner.

"The churches strongly condemn the politicisation of appointments, and say that it is the worst form of corruption,'' he said.

"The appointment of the deputy military commander to the position of Police Commissioner is illegal and morally wrong in view of pending cases against the military over the December takeover of the elected government."

The submission was sent to interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Tuesday and copied to the President, US ambassador, High Commissioners of Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Mr Chand said he respected the views of the churches.

"If they feel this way about these matters then it is well within their rights and we respect that,'' he said.

"This is the whole purpose of seeking submissions on the proposed set-up of the national charter, to get people's view on it."

He also clarified that the NCBBF has not been formed yet so people should not feel they were being left out.

The closing date for the submissions has been extended to Tuesday.

Submissions have also been received from the Fiji Muslim League, the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, the Fiji Islands Hotels and Tourism Association, Fijian Holdings Limited, University of the South Pacific, Fiji Disabled Peoples' Association, University of Fiji, Fiji Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Church, the Rotuma Council, the Rabi Council and Tailevu Provincial Council.

An Anglican perspective on the situation in Fiji can be found in a publication from New Zealand.


Anonymous said...

This is a bold move! As you say Jesus was a political figure and he spoke out for what he believed was right, right for the people. This is what I see that the churches have done in Fiji. I dont know how much power they have in Fiji, as an organisation, but from my experience of Fiji there are some devout believers.

I wonder what role religion does have in the development of Fiji, as it is a Nation strong in belief or whether they are largely ignored by those in power as long as there is no hassle.

Great post though.

Mark Bowness

Anonymous said...

I'd have to disagree that Jesus was political. He promoted rule by God's Kingdom and not mans. Remember - "our father in heaven, let your kingdom come, your rule be done". When the Jews tried to seize Jesus and make him a King, he refused and went away so that they couldn't.
A real Christian should stay politically neutral, obeying the governments laws, but only as far as they do not contravene God's laws (pay back Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God.)
Churches today seem to dabble in too much politics and not enough morality.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Yes, there are many excellent religious people who do not want to 'interfere' in the politics of their nation.

Many years ago there was 'liberation theology' where religion and politics were very mixed up and often criticized as being Marxist.

However I don't mean 'political' in the sense of 'party politics' because I don't think an institution like a branch of the church should take sides in that way. (So it does seem that the Methodist Church in Fiji makes an error at times if they promote one political party)

However issues in society such as justice, mercy, reconciliation, gender equality, were all part of the ministry of Jesus as well as his condemnation of hypocracy and exploitation. That is where I think religion and politics do go together - the power to make changes in society that treat people in a fair way.

Anonymous said...

Wendy, I completely agree which was also my understanding of politics - being a positive voice for change, change that is at the heart of all political parties rather than alignment to one particular party.

Mark Bowness

karlassi said...

I think that working for a little bit of heaven on earth, aka justice, mercy, peace, is the at the heart of Christian practice and spirituality.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I think there are two roles for working for the kingdom - the day to day ordinary 'band-aiding' e.g. giving blankets to the homeless. But that isn't enough. Protesting or speaking with those in powerful places - politicians etc. is imperative to move society to become more just. That's why I think church/religious leaders have to speak out in Fiji at present.
Certainly there are plenty of people/groups protesting at present about the New Zealand High Commissioner being told to leave Fiji immediately.
Isa lei Viti!