Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The walking wounded in Samoa

The scene of devastation in Pago Pago (AP Photo/Ausage Fausia)from w
The shock of such a sudden tsunami has devastated the people of the two Samoas and the news emerged that many people have died and hundreds are injured. Though we know there are always dangers of floods, cyclones, earthquakes, a huge event like this is still unexpected. We send our condolences and love to the people of Western Samoa and American Samoa at this time. Local people, tourists as well, became victims. Now the walking wounded are in a state of shock. Fortunately people come to help at times like this. Even a group of medical students from Australia, in Samoa on a study tour, quickly went to a hospital and offered to help.

Why do ordinary people suffer like this? I think the answer is that we live in a fragile world, weather-wise, and with the earth's crust unstable. One blog writer suggested that God sends a punishment, but I do not see it that way. Our world is vulnerable and bad things do happen. I believe that God though allows humans to learn from every experience and to develop compassion and grace in times like this.

China's grand parade

from w
Just as Fiji has had a church conference that is not a conference, and sometimes has leaders who are not leaders, the people of China apparently are having a Grand Parade tomorrow that is not a grand parade. Military hardware mainly. People are told NOT to go and watch, just stay home and see it on TV! How different that is from a people oriented society where crowds joyfully (or tearfully) watch rugby or footie matches, and enjoy it all.
from Chinatoday:
Top News>>
China Holds Reception for National Day
The Chinese people have made unremitting efforts in the past six decades for the modernization drive and achieved great success, top political advisor Jia Qinglin said Tuesday. Grand Ceremony Planned to Celebrate National Day. A grand ceremony is scheduled to start at 10:00 AM Thursday in Beijing to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).
Roads, Subways Closed for October 1
Wide-reaching traffic lockdowns and a visible array of security in central Beijing for October 1 will likely drive those interested in the National Day Parade to the comfort of their own homes to watch the festivities on TV.
Beijing Spruced up for 60th National Day Gala
Tian'anmen Square and its surrounding area, the center of Beijing, has been spruced up for a host of important celebrations to mark New China's 60 birthday on October 1.
My comments:
I am appalled by displays by the military at any time, tanks and that sort of discipline and display.
I'm sure there will be no opportunity to protest about the priorities. I liked one way of protest that occurred one time in Melbourne when John Howard was speaking and a group of Aboriginal people in the audience turned their backs. A great way to protest in a non-violent way.
People are not allowed to watch the parade! Do they fear dissidents doing something?
Now about the relationship with Fiji - 'soft' loans from China are not 'soft' loans at all because the immigrant workers from China will take up the jobs and the money, and not the local men and women.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fiji Day in Melbourne - change of venue

from w
An email from Sydney's rugby gal, Luse, informed us that the Melbourne Fiji Day Rugby tournament will be at a new venue - so Melbourne supporters - don't go to the wrong sportsground! Actually Peceli and I are already registered to attend a different function that day at Dandenong. We usually go to the Fiji Day in Melbourne with some of our Fiji Geelong Friendship Club members, but not this time.

Re: 2009 Fiji Day Melbourne Sevens Rugby Tournament - Change of Venue

Bula rugby fans and those who love the Islands of the Republic of Fiji and its people!
(stuff about draws)

You will note that there is a change of venue from that previously stated, that is,the Tournament will NOT be played at the Boroondara Rugby Club. We received notice 11 days ago that the Ground had become unavailable to us.....

The 2009 Fiji Day Melbourne Sevens Rugby Tournament will be held at the Moorabbin Rams Rugby Club at 100 Keys Rd, Moorabbin. (Melways ref Map 78 B9) Thank you Steve Curnow, Moorabbin Rams Rugby Club and the City of Kingston for stepping in at the last minute, and thanks must also go to Endeavour Hills RUC for the offer they made. Vinaka vakalevu!....

In the meantime don't forget the Fiji Day Island Night Function, which will be held in the centrally located Fitzroy Town Hall, Napier Street, Fitzroy (Melways ref map 2C B9). Tickets at $30 each including delicious Traditional Fijian Lovo-cooked Food and Indian Cuisine, are available now. Don't miss out on the fun and the great music! Hey, why not book a table and bring your friends along to share our celebrations! Just call Albert 0433 776 702, Sala 0420 512 182 or Semi 0401 226 580 today.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sweet harmony at a Melbourne church

from w
Yesterday we had the pleasure of joining with four or five church groups at Chadstone, Melbourne, as guests of the Melbourne Fijian Uniting Church there. After the one hour freeway drive from Geelong we arrived just as the church worship was starting. Yesterday was rainy and extremely cold. The church was crowded with many people we know and a few new ones. Sermons and prayers were interspersed with fine choir singing, including that joyful Jericho song that Peceli first heard from the Vesi church in Mali. Speakers told of their visit to the Fiji conference that was not a conference - upbeat stories as well as sad tales. Afterwards we had a delicious lovo feast and then the men mixed yaqona. After we'd been in Chadstone for five hours I gave the 'five minutes' signal to Peceli and some time later we left.

It had been a lovely time of sharing and catching up with people we've known a long time and meeting new people such as students from Fiji and new migrant families. I had a new camera to try out but haven't got the gist of it yet so gave it to a friend and she switched it on to 'video' which didn't work! I only have one photo - of some of the leaders, not the informal shots of little groups of people telling stories that I usually take. Maybe by Fiji Day I'll have some decent photos. The weekend of 9,10,11 October offers many choices for Fiji people - a rugby day, an Island night, a 60th birthday party for Sese, and a two and a half day conference for Fiji Indians. (See Trinity Uniting Church website.) Peceli and I have booked in for the last one so we'll have to brush up on singing bhajans.

Training in cyber crime and a movie shoot

from w
I laughed when I read this article in Fiji Village because one time Peceli was an extra in a Chinese movie, 'Double Vision' (not in English) and he was dressed up as the Fiji Police Commissioner for one of the scenes where top CIA guys were at such an Interpol meeting. I'll try and find one or two of the photos taken at the movie shoot site which was at Monash University in Melbourne. The Chinese CIA character was played by a budding opera singer! It was great fun for me to tag along with Peceli when he was an 'extra' on a few movie shoots.

Knowledge of modern tech vital-Teleni
Publish date/time: 28/09/2009 [12:01]

These are the words of Police Commissioner Commodore Esala Teleni to the participants at the 8th Interpol Train the Trainer Workshop on IT Crime Investigation for Asia and South Pacific, currently being held at the Holiday Inn in Suva. Teleni said criminal activities are changing as a result of technology evolving adding this is why the Police Force should be well equipped with the knowledge of how to fight such crimes.

He added the Police Force needs to be in touch with its other counterparts around the world, as cyber crime is now becoming a global phenomenon, with crimes such as internet fraud and child pornography. Teleni added this will also help the Force move out of the usual physical approach taken to fight crime and help them move into the future. The workshop ends on Friday.

My italics in the article...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gold for Fiji javelin thrower

from w
Congratulations to Leslie Copland. A great effort at the MiniGames in the Cook Islands. The gold - wealth - of Fiji is in the young people with passion to achieve their goals.
from Fiji Times Golden throw
Zanzeer Singh
Saturday, September 26, 2009

LESLIE Copeland has set his sights on representing Fiji at the 2012 Olympics after claiming the javelin gold medal and setting a new Pacific Mini Games record.

Copeland yesterday shattered the mark set by his coach and former Fiji rep James Goulding (73.58m) in 1997. Copeland's new distance is 74.98 metres. Goulding is Copeland's coach. The 21-year-old said hard work had paid off. "I always had a dream to achieve this," Copeland said. "It's come after a long time. It's a personal best throw for me. The record has come as a bonus."

Copeland was far superior to his rivals from New Caledonia and Samoa. Both of them only managed to clear 63 metres. Copeland thanked Goulding for guidance. He said the win has laid the platform for him to compete at a higher level. "I would like to thank Red Bull my sponsor," Copeland said. "The other sponsors for Team Fiji as well. This is a big stepping stone for me. My next aim is the Olympics in 2012. It will take a lot of hard work to get there." Copeland said he is happy to beat the mark set by his coach.

He said he was confident of breaking the record in the Mini Games. "I came here with a mission and to win gold," Copeland said. "I knew I could set a new record. My coach is a different kind of person. He keeps pushing me all the time. This win is for all the people back in Fiji."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ezo Resort

from Peceli
When I was in Fiji I stayed overnight in Rukurukulevu village in the Cuvu area and in the morning Ratu Tevita Makutu took me to visit the Ezo Beachfront Resort which is run by his brother. I was surprised that this little resort run by a local Fijian family has rooms with bunkbeds and looks very good for families and a group of friends. They have a minibus to pick up people at the airport and acitviies include kava, meke, horse-rising, kayaking, cave tour etc. These kind of travel experiences are better than going to the huge resorts. Here you meet the real local people with their kindness and hospitality. Their website is here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Water for Nabavatu

from w,
My friend Joy gave me the Fiji Times with a story about the village of Nabavatu and the volunteers from Geelong who put in pipes and taps to make life much easier for the people. Click on the print image to see enlarged. The article was in the Fiji Times recently.

A story about a casino

from w
I've written two short stories set in the Crown Casino Melbourne. This is the shorter one about a Pacific Islander Security Officer as many Islanders work in Security jobs. The idea came to me when a family I know got into heaps of trouble to do with gambling. The story is meant to be read aloud by softening some of the consonants and changing r to l, etc.! Malo lelei to any Tongan readers of this blog and my apologies if there is anything offensive here!

Mililei Security officer

My work is in Security and I thank the Lord that I have a job. My name is Mililei Fakalialiaafa’ola and my father is a noble, the Baron Isiliesa Potipotila’afu. Thank you Jesus that I have a good job at the Casino and I get sixteen dollars an hour just for being nice to people. My father back in Tonga, he don’t get that much money in one day.

Well, yesterday I go to the patron’s toilet because I’ve got to go quick ‘cause I’m pregnant you know, and I can’t hold my water and I can’t get to the staff one quick enough. I go to the one with the gold taps, you know, with the beautiful mirrors and the flowers and the lovely lights. Praise the Lord for the beautiful world we live in. Well, a lady there is crying so much she can’t stop. She looks a nice lady with her lovely black dress and her diamond earrings. She is as old as my Mum, Lady Ololiafa’alia’afiga. Thank you Jesus that my Mum is still alive and she loves the Lord. Yes.

I say to the lady, ‘Dear, what’s the matter?’ But she just cry and cry. She points to the door and I say to her, ‘Can I help you,’ then she say, ‘My husband won’t go home, he just won’t leave this place.’

I know what’s the matter then. Lots of husbands are here and they just won’t leave. Some even won’t go to the toilet, you know. True, it’s true. Thank you Jesus that I can talk to this lady. I say, ‘Calm down and sit down,’ but then I know the toilet is not a nice place to sit in so I take her to a small lounge away from the other people.

She say to me, ‘Get me a cup of tea, honey.’

Before I go, three men they come in with cameras and you know, cameras are not allowed here, so I stand up straight, show them my badge and say to them, ‘Take your cameras away. You get out of here quick!’

Then one man he say, ‘I just want a photo of the lady because her husband is in the news now because he just spent plenty million dollars that don’t belong to him.’

I just say, ‘Get out of here. Leave the nice lady alone.’

They get out and I talk to the crying lady as she drinks her tea. She say, ‘He is obsessed, honey, he is utterly obsessed. He looks for that high all the time but it is elusive.’

I don’t know the meaning of that word but my father, the Baron Isiliesa Potipotila’afu he know that word. But I know what she means because I see the look in the eye of the men and women here. They got the fire in their eye, just like some of the men and women in our church, the Westside Holy City Church. When we sing in the spirit, you know, when the Holy Ghost comes on you, you know, and your eyes are on fire. It’s the same thing. Well, not really. This other one’s from the devil in this place. Our pastor he tell me, ‘Mililei, you shouldn’t work in that bad place. Find another job.’ But I can’t leave because every day I say, Thank you Jesus that I got a job.

Well the lady, she smile at me and she thank me, but I feel sorry for her you know, and I tell her, ‘This is my address in Craigieburn. Anytime you lonely, you come and see me.’ Then she cry again. ‘I live near Craigieburn, honey,’ she tell me.

I smile when she call me honey every time because I look at my hands and arms and yes, they look the colour of honey. Aiwei.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Taking a break from cane-cutting

from w
Yesterday was World Peace Day and also Eid Festival for the ending of Ramadan fasting so that was a nice time for ordinary gestures of hospitality as Muslims in Fiji invited guests to share with them. At a farm in Bucalevu near Labasa a group of Fijians from a village in Bua celebrated together. This is an ideal way of doing 'peace' better than speeches full of abstract words and afternoon tea parties in Suva, eh! Samai is a lovely sweet made from very fine vermicilli, sweetened and spiced.

from Fiji Times Villagers cross the barrier to unite in joy
Theresa Ralogaivau
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

DRINKING samai and celebrating Eid for the first time was an eye-opening experience for a group of Bua villagers at Bucalevu yesterday. Jokapeci Nautora, 28, and her group of cane harvesters found it exciting to be celebrating another culture and faith far away from home. "Our village is far away in Bua and many of us didn't even know what Eid was all about," she said. "It was the first time for many to taste samai and we all loved its sweetness and the fact that there was a lot of milk in it," she added. The villagers have been spending the past two weeks harvesting cane at Mohammed Saizad's farm.

It was Eid with a difference for Mr Saizad and his family to have indigenous harvesters over. "Eid mean's kushi yali or a time to make happiness and share love and we do this with a bowl of samai that we offer out to everyone regardless of their race," he said. "It was good moment for me and my family to be celebrating Eid with villagers of Nawailevu because we mostly reach out to our relatives and friends."

Celebrations unfolded on the lawns of the 64-year-old's home with pala (sewn sacks) spread out and everyone sitting around enjoying a bowl of samai. "I could drink bowls and bowls of this and never have enough," Ms Nautora said. "Today we made new friends and had a happy Eid with the villagers so it made it a meaningful one for my family," Mr Saizad said.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Names dropping in Suva

from w
A visitor or newcomer to Fiji would be at a loss to understand many conversations in cafes in Suva as the local people use acronyms / initialisms all the time to refer to departments, organisations, shops, and so on. Now there will be a new one surely that beats them all. The Council of Chiefs building to be opened shortly has a name that boggles the mind. It is Vale Ni Bose of the Fijians Trust Fund Building Complex which I expect will be shorted to VNBFTFBC!

Here is a conversation:
Bula bro. Hey there look at the woman from the FHRC.
No, she’s FLS.
And her friend from FMS.
No, she’s USP.
Did you hear about the guy from PCRD who’s going out with the GM from VTLP.
I’ve got a new job bro with PIF.
Given up on FSC? Well, I'm going for a new job at the VNBFTFBC!

Later: Friday 25th September. Well, the building has been opened by the Tui Vuda (previously known as the President). Perhaps Ro Kepa would have been an excellent choice to do the honours. As Fiji TV reports 'However, along with the empty seats in the guests dias .... the absence of high chiefs like Ro Teimumu, Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matanitobua, Na Ka Levu Ratu Sakiusa Makutu and Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu didn't go un-noticed.' I noticed the Fijivillage still call the building by its old name Council of Chiefs Complex. Tui Macuata was there. He knows which side his bread is buttered on!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rev 'Tomasi Kanailagi

from Peceli
Coming back from nearly five weeks in Fiji, partly to connect with the Methodist Church people for the Australian soli, I would like to make some comments. The church is very srong in the rural areas and the talatalas are hardworking in their circuits that I saw such as in Macuata and also in Nadi, Nawaka. I met many talatala during my trip which makes me contented with their call of ministry.

Rev Tomasi Kanailagi who has now retired came from Viwa Island where John Hunt established an outstanding Christian witness many years ago. Tomasi is a bit younger than me but I have known him for nearly fifty years. May God bless him in his retirement.

from Fiji Village
Former church president retires
Publish date/time: 19/09/2009 [16:57]

Former Methodist Church President Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi has retired with five other senior pastors. This is after 40 years of service with the Methodist church.

Acting General Secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said Reverend Kanailagi and the other five ministers have reached the age of 70 and so have opted to retire. Reverend Kanailagi is one of the members of the Standing Committee of the Church who is charged with breaching the Public Emergency Regulations and is not allowed to be part of any meeting.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Yabaki gets it right sometimes

from w
I really dislike the idea of a casino in Fiji. The only casino I've been inside was Crown in Melbourne and it's a horrible place. I went there only to write a story.
Anyway Akuila gets it right this time - as reported by Scoop New Zealand. There's a comment added after the article from 'Bubu' but that's not me and I won't republish it here.

CCF expresses ‘deep reservations’ on plan for Fiji casino
16:42 September 18, 2009Fiji, Pacific Press Releases1 comment
Pacific Press Release – Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, 18 September 2009
CCF expresses reservations on opening of a casino
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) expresses deep reservations about the decision by the Interim Government to allow a casino to open in Fiji. “It is known world over that casinos can have collateral damages. Big time gambling can be a source of addiction leading to financial bankruptcy and irreplaceable loss of much needed family income, which could aggravate rather than resolve poverty,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

“The opening of any casino would require strict legislation and it would be unfair discrimination to prevent locals from accessing the casino altogether or to place higher regulations on their participation than foreigners,” Rev Yabaki said. Suitable regulations would need to be in place to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to:
• The impact on social welfare and culture;
• Mismanagement of finances (possible increase in debt and poverty);
• Gambling addictions (and associate problems such as alcohol/drug abuse and depression);
• The location and/or number of casinos should be determined only after a comprehensive impact assessment report is done.

“It should be able to benefit the people of Fiji, including the local economy, and not just visiting tourists and overseas investors and measures need to be in place to address any adverse impact this development might have,“ Rev Yabaki said. “Only one casino should be sufficient for a country like Fiji.”

Some of the reasons why I dislike gambling are set out here in a statement by Tim Costello, currently head of World Vision Australia, a Baptist minister.
from Sydney Morning Herald, late 2007
State and territory governments rake in more than $4 billion a year in pokies taxes. The only exception is Western Australia, which apart from videopoker games in Perth's Burswood Casino, is pokies free. Our governments have a vile addiction to pokies revenue that is tearing apart families and communities.

Last year the gaming industry took more than $10 billion out of Australian wallets. And it is those who are least able to afford it who are most affected. The Productivity Commission's landmark 1999 report revealed that 42.3 per cent of pokies losses came from problem gamblers. That compared with 5.7 per cent for lotteries. More recent studies have put this at closer to 50 per cent of losses coming off the backs of the vulnerable and addicted.

The numbers are not insignificant. There are at least 220,000 Australians struggling with a gambling problem because of the pokies. They make up 80 per cent of all problem gamblers and for each problem gambler the lives of seven others, be they family or friends, are affected.

Close to 2 million Australians are in some way worse off because of the pokies bug. That doesn't include previous "generations" of addicts who can no longer be classified as problem gamblers because they have already lost everything and can no longer gamble.
drawings added later - Tuesday. I'd illustrated a story in a small anthology and found it again, and the other drawing was made as I waited for a Christmas luncheon for women to be set up - at the Leopold Sports Club. I discovered that I'd posted it and written about 'Wowsers' in this blog 23rd January earlier this year.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Macuata women on the go

from w
There's no doubt about it that the women of Macuata are strong, motivated and come up with ideas. Two stories: one about a craft meeting of Macuata women, and a story about the cooks who take their scones, buns, pies into Labasa town every day to make some much-needed money. One of our women from Vatuadova village gets up early each morning to prepare her children for school and then cooks scones etc. to take into Labasa for her pre-arranged contacts there such as the FIT. Way to go ladies!

from Fiji Sun
North promotes cultural heritage

The promotion of cultural heritage at the provincial level was seen in Labasa yesterday with rural women showcasing their talents in the form of craftwork.
More than 60 women from Macuata and Bua showcased their art and craft work at the Takia Hotel in Labasa. This initiative followed the focus on Macuata started by the Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere's representation at last year's Festival of Arts in American Samoa.

Chief Guest at the Craft Fair, Nukubati Island Resort proprieter Jenny Bourke said there was potential for women to make money out of their talent. Mrs Bourke said hive of tourism activities in the North has proven to be a platform for commercial cultural enterprises. Having managing a five-star resort, Mrs Bourke said they offer an authentic Fijian experience - not just a resort in Fiji but to also utilize Fijian products.

"We all have talents but we have to combine that talent for us to help you find the market. Our handicrafts are unique, authentic and beautiful. This is part of our lives."

"We can take raw material and our talent to produce something beautiful," she said. "Too often, we feel limited by what we have, but we are lucky here that we do not have to be taught the skills because we already have it. What is missing is bringing creativity to the market and that is the million dollar question in any industry." Mrs Bourke added that a survey should be done to know what product is in demand. "We need to survey to find out what can be sold. We have a local market here but for us to expand into this creative side, we need to find out what sells."

Assistant Roko for Women and Youth in Macuata, Peni Rakanace said they had a network with women in Udu, Namuka and Mali for mats and women of Seaqaqa, Sasa. Dreketi and Macuata for assorted woven kuta (Fijian mat). "We have to motivate and empower these rural women to utilize their talent using available resources as a source of income and employment opportunities."

"They all come from rural settings so this is a way they could earn money to help their individual families," Mr Rakanace added.
Vendors want better market provision
Food sellers at the Labasa Market are demanding better services by the Labasa Town Council to conduct business. More than 32 food sellers who were present in a meeting yesterday want the Council to provide them with proper stalls. Diwaqa Lakolako, a vendor, said they were not happy with conditions at the market. “We want to ask the council to give us bigger spaces because we have many eating utensils and storage cupboards,” she said. “It is not enough for two food sellers to sell food from a stall because of limited space,” she continued. “We requested them to provide proper shelter so that our belongings are protected during any weather condition,” she added.

The council has decided to relocate the vendors because of hygienic reasons.
The council was concerned about the open plate of food served by the sellers and also the illegal fish market situated beside the market. The meeting heard that all mothers and food sellers need to be medically certified to sell food at the market.
Another food seller, Taini Nacanieli said they were given only 28 days to have medical examinations. “We are ready to relocate but we need a better and suitable space to sell our produce She said most sellers would relocate when the council would build a stall for them. All we want is a good and a proper shelter provided by the council so that we can continue with our business,” she added.

About 60 women are selling food at the market.

Town Council administrator Vijay Chnad said the council had made provisions for the vendors. “We are going to provide them the same amount of spaces and food sellers should be happy that the council had provided decent and a much healthier places to sell from,” he said.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are there too many churches in Fiji?

from w
Though I am more comfortable with the older established Christian churches such as Methodist, Catholic, Anglican, there is much to learn from the newer Penticostal churches with their engagement with music, youth, and discipline. However some of the ideas in the fringe churches are peculiar and really lacking in what Jesus was on about. Father Kevin Barr wrote an article about the dangers of misreading and misleading which was published in the Fiji Times recently. It's long but worth reading. He starts off about the yelling!

Beware of false prophets
Kevin Barr, Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jesus did not shout at sinners. He treated them gently and with compassion. The belief that they are possessed by Satan or an evil spirit has led people to do unusual things. It shows how dangerous some of the twisted beliefs coming from some new religious groups can be. Serious questions have been raised about the nature of these groups and what they teach and how qualified their preachers may be. Extreme religious messages can easily push those who are already unbalanced to actions which have dangerous, even deadly, consequences.

Satan and evil spirits
The followers of some of the new Pentecostal/charismatic churches tend to give exaggerated explanatory value to supernatural powers of good (God) and evil (the Devil). They tend to deny or play down the human factors responsible for good and evil and discount scientific answers in favour of seeing supernatural forces at work.
The struggle between good and evil in the human person or in the world is personified as the constant clash of power between God and Satan or between good and evil spirits. There often seems to be an excessive fear of evil spirits and the power of the devil in the world. People are sometimes described as being "possessed" by a particular evil spirit e.g. a spirit of greed or lust. Sexual sins are regularly seen to be the worst form of evil. Evil spirits are often said to be the cause of various illnesses or forms of bad luck. In Fiji, the traditional dwelling places of evil spirits (e.g. the baka tree) are still designated as sources of evil by some Pentecostal "healing" pastors and Christians are told to cut them down so as not to be harmed by them.

Holiness as separation from evil
In many of these new charismatic churches, God is seen as the all Holy One who demands of us strict observance of religious regulations and avoidance of any evil contaminating influence. This leads to a strong tendency to see holiness as "separation from evil" and to demand angrily that any contaminating element be kept out of the Christian community. The notion that "true" Christians must remain "pure" and separate themselves from "sinners" is reminiscent of the code of holiness preached by the Pharisees in the New Testament. According to this "holiness code" those who did not strictly observe the law were to be excluded and avoided. Jesus spoke out strongly against this code of holiness.

He did not preach that God was the all Holy One but rather a father who was full of compassion and love and embodied the Old Testament statement: "The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, full of compassion and love". For this reason he mixed with those rejected by the Pharisees as sinners and sat down to eat with tax collectors.
In some evangelical/charismatic groups today, the preacher often seems to preach a message of a God of anger who punishes those who do not obey his commands. With a loud angry judgmental voice (often magnified by loudspeakers) he shouts and yells damnation upon sinners and sounds forth angrily against evil in the world and the all-pervading influence of Satan.

But Jesus did not shout angrily at sinners. He treated them gently and with compassion. In fact he was known to be the friend of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners and he mixed with people of other religious traditions (Romans, Samaritans, etc). For him, the most notable characteristic of God, his Father, was not holiness (in the sense of separation from evil) but compassion. For him God was a loving father who understands and forgives.

Jesus reserved his anger for hypocritical religious leaders, the self-righteous, the legalistic Scribes and Pharisees and the selfish rich who refused to care for the poor. Some psychologists today say there is a close connection between religious fundamentalism, authoritarianism, prejudice and racial attitudes.
Moreover, some scholars speak of fundamentalism as a form of religious pathology. It can have dangerous consequences in the lives of those who are already unbalanced.

The dominant christian voices
Unfortunately the dominant public voices that say they speak in the name of Christianity today are voices from the fundamentalist Christian right. These legalistic and dogmatic public "Christian" voices are disturbing and very often damage the public perception of the Christian church. They alienate many good people and give others the impression that the church is no longer relevant. Their black-and-white judgment on complex moral issues are narrow-minded and offensive to those who see the message of Jesus as urging us to compassion, love and understanding. Many of the biblical texts they quote in support of their position come from the Old Testament legalistic tradition, not from the New Testament.

In the name of "family values" the churches of the new religious right speak about the necessity of a return to moral values in society but they lack balance in the moral values they promote. Whereas the fundamentalist Christian right loves to quote a few legalistic passages from the Old Testament about homosexuality, they pay little attention to the many stern warnings of the Old Testament prophets about injustice and the strong words of Jesus in the New Testament about the danger of riches and need for his followers to show deep concern for the poor. They speak out against abortion but wars which kill thousands of innocent people are justified in the name of fighting terrorism and promoting democracy.

US biblical scholar Marcus Borg, in his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1995:59) has this to say: "In parts of the church today there are groups that emphasise holiness and purity as the Christian way of life, and they draw their own sharp social boundaries between the righteous and sinners.

It is a sad irony that these groups, many of which are seeking very earnestly to be faithful to the Scriptures, end up emphasising those parts of the Scriptures that Jesus challenged and opposed. An interpretation of the Scriptures faithful to Jesus and the early Christian movement sees the Bible through the lens of compassion, not purity." Like the Pharisees in Jesus' day, it seems that many fervent, Bible-reading, judgmental Christians end up self-righteous, mean-spirited and uncompassionate people rather than Christian men and women who strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in the gospels.

Unfortunately the Christian right demands to speak with the loudest voice today and wants to drown the voices of other Christians.

Alternative authentic Christian voices need to make themselves heard in our society today. They should speak out and represent the compassionate concern and priorities of Jesus. They need to dispute the legalism and dogmatism of the new religious right and bring the voice of the gospels to bear on the religious and moral concerns of our society in Fiji today.

The need for controls
In view of the potential damage that religious preachers can do in the lives of individuals and communities there would seem to be a compelling reason for some standards and controls to be established. In order to protect people doctors have to be registered before they can practise, lawyers are required to be registered and teachers have to be registered and show their qualifications. So why not the clergy?
Many of those who set up new churches in Fiji today seem to have very little training and may be misleading their unsuspecting flock.

It would seem advisable that those who are leaders and preachers in churches should have to provide their qualifications and the source of those qualifications. It should not be a free-for-all where anyone who "feels the call" or wants to be a leader in a church should be able to set up his or her own church and preach his or her own interpretation of the Bible. They should be properly qualified people from recognised institutions.

This may not prevent every problem as the registration of doctors does not prevent every case of malpractice. But it should provide some basic safeguards which currently are absent.

Freedom of religion surely does not mean that any Tom, Dick or Harry, or Mary, Margaret or Alice can start their own church and impose their doctrine on their unsuspecting congregation, no matter how many biblical quotations they can provide. These days, our society demands accountability, transparency and professionalism. Therefore we must demand that controls be set in place for preachers of religion to ensure that they are not false and dangerous prophets.

Tropical trees

from w
I've been drawing trees lately in the Geelong Botanical Gardens and there are many tropical trees, ferns, banana, palm. Here are a couple of examples. Of course one of the attractions in Fiji for me is the landscapes, the forests, the trees and plants. The banana tree I drew is in disarray and very sad looking after the drought.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A spring day

from w
Things are getting back to normal here now that Peceli has returned from Tasmania. It's certainly good to have him back after nearly five weeks in Fiji, then three days in Hobart. Yesterday we went to Altona Meadows/Laverton Uniting Church where a large group of Fiji people gathered for worship and afternoon tea, most of them from Lomaiviti. It was a lovely afternoon and we met some new people but of course there are always connexions and plenty of talanoa. It was nice to have people from Methodist, Catholic, and Penticostal backgrounds sharing in prayer, hymns and songs - and the five guitars playing were remarkably good. I do not have a fondness for some Christian choruses but this group of singers and musicians made a simple song truly beautiful. Afterwards we went to a home for a welcome ceremony for a visitor from Fiji and prayers for two sisters due to become mothers soon. A lovely family and we are always welcome there.

Anyway it is spring weather today, sunshiny, and we spent the morning in the garden planting vegetables, moving pot-plants and generally tidying up. This afternoon Peceli went to play golf after being away from golf for six weeks! He dropped me off at the Geelong Botanical Gardens on the way as I felt like doing some sketching. I picked up fallen petals and leaves as I often do and scanned them into computer files to play around with. Dying leaves and flowers are part of it all aren't they? I usually post these sort of pictures on the Geelong Visual Diary, but I decided to put them here this time and also some designs with shells and stones.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Rev Aminiasi Qalo

from Wendy from notes by Peceli,
Rev Aminiasi Qalo

The funeral of the late Rev Aminiasi was held this morning, September 10th at the Glenorchy Uniting Church in Hobart, Tasmania. Aminiasi worked diligently in the Methodist Church in Fiji, in the Papua New Guinea highlands at Mendi as a Bishop, and then in Australia in the Uniting Church. Aminiasi is from Komo, Kabara, Lau. He was born on 14th October 1936, and was educated at Namata District School, Tailevu, St Columba's Memorial School, the Davuilevu Bible School and Davuilevu
Theological College. He entered the Theological College in 1958 and here is a photo of the students around that time. Aminiasi's name included Volau, but perhaps the lad named Volau here is a different student. (Click on photo to see enlarged.)

Aminiasi was ordained on 16 July 1964 the year that the Fiji Methodist Church became a Conference. Aminiasi married a nurse Vasiti in 1962.

Aminiasi was appointed to Nausori in 1962-4, All Saints College, Savusavu in 1965 and his heart was set on becoming a missionary to Papua New Guinea. He worked there for many years in Mendi, Margarima, 1966-1878 and after going to Fuller Theological Seminary in 1979 -80 he returned to Papua New Guinea 1981-85. When Aminiasi came to Australia he was in Sydney, then Richmond Uniting Church, Melbourne, then in country Victoria.

In retirement Aminiasi and Vasiti lived in Hobart and Vasiti passed away there and then last week, Aminiasi. We honour Rev Aminiasi’s life of service to God and his compassion for people in varied communities and our thoughts are with their daughter Magareta and relatives at this time. Several people from the Melbourne Fiji community went to Hobart this week for the funeral, including Peceli who went with Sailosi Koto, Mere, and Leba.
This photo of Rev Aminiasi (left) with Inoke Nabulivou, Peceli Ratawa, and at the back Jovilisi Ragata and Paula Tekei, was taken at a Fijian Uniting Church Conference about ten years ago.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Laucala Island

from w
The superlative photographs by Judith Ragg (hey Jude, I am only using the photos to show how lovely they are) and story by Stan Simpson in Mailife July 2009 show a constructed environment with beautiful arrangements of wood, stone, thatch and mainly earth colours. It is an extraordinary place, but of course the price of up to $35,000 a night is out of reach of most people, either in Fiji or any place! Is it just too much of a good thing? Do you need a bath, pool, jacuzzi? Anyway the creative designer certainly was meticulous in the details.

I wish the staff well - the guys from Qamea Island as they are the most beautiful resource.

One thing though - there are beautiful butterflies on the island in bright colours. (Go to www.parfaitimage_com/Rhopalocera/junonia_villida.htm.) or google 'Laucala butterflies' This links to photos taken of butterflies at Laucala Island by Donald H Gudehus in December 2008. Now such colours could have been incorporated with the earth colours - in small details. Is there just too much brown, eh? That's just my view as an artist (of sorts).

A tall story

from w
Here's a lightweight story as the 'heavy' and 'hot' stories can't be told! It's funny, but how silly. Imagine if this was the rule on aerooplanes, especially for people who are very tall or have ample figures. Once time a former King of Tonga went by plane, but because of his weight all his luggage was left behind! One time I was on a bus (in Australia) and my seat was next to a huge handsome man wearing black. I tried to read my Age newspaper, but in vain. All the thin people sat comfortably in their seats while the gentleman and I wriggled about. We didn't speak for half the trip, then we talked. What a lovely man. He wasn't a yuppy at all, but a Catholic priest with an excellent voice and he told me his whole life story! Another time on a bus from Pacific Harbour to Suva more and more people squeezed onto the bus, including a Fijian woman who recognized Peceli from Rakiraki days, and said to him, ' So, you have a new wife. Your old wife was much thinner!' Hmmm.

From Fiji Times
Tall or heavy, you pay the same fareGeraldine Panapasa
Wednesday, September 09, 2009

HOW tall or heavy a child is should not determine what bus fare they have to pay. This is the word from the Land Transport Authority amid confusion among bus companies over which regulations to follow when charging taller school children. This follows an incident in which a 10-year-old girl from Rakiraki was told to pay the full fare because she was more than four feet tall.

LTA media liaison assistant Dorine Narayan said children should not be penalised because of their height or weight. "There is no question of age when boarding a school bus. When a student is in uniform, what matters is whether they are boarding a school bus or passenger bus," she said.

Lavenia Caroline boarded the Sunbeam bus for Rakiraki on Monday and was told to pay $1 because she was more than four feet tall.

Sunbeam Transport Limited managing director Abdul Wahab said the bus conductor was not wrong because he was following the bus fare conditions that were issued with the road permit in 2006.

"This was given to us from our road permit issue on August 2, 2006, which states that children less than four feet in height pay half the adult fare," he said. Mr Wahab said the problem was the lack of valid identification for children and students.

However, the LTA yesterday said height was no longer a deciding factor for bus fares. According to a table provided by LTA, the bus fare conditions no longer included the old Transport Control Board qualification of "less than 4 feet in height". The table provided only alluded to the fact that "for the ages 5-12 years all children pay half adult fare to the nearest 5 cents". "The bus conditions LTA is following is the same as the one by the Transport Control Board. The only difference is the height factor has been omitted," Ms Narayan said. Consumer Council of Fiji chairman Narendra Padarath yesterday said the council was disturbed that a bus checker had charged a student the adult fare based on her height.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Fiji magazines and papers

from w
Peceli brought me back a bundle of newspapers and some magazines from Fiji so I am going through them with some amusement, disquiet, wonder. Two magazines that drew my attention were Mailife and Oceanian Wave; the latter was inaugurated in February this year and comes from the USP so has highly literate articles, fabulous photographs and covers topics that interest me. Mailife is full of the superb seven star resort on Laucala Island and the writer exceeds himself in hyperbole and amazement and then says, 'I lived in a atin hut'. I'll write more on this later as it raises the topic of distribution of wealth and the contrasts of lifestyle in Fiji. The cover of Ocean Wave is intriguing. What is the girl looking at? The model is Salote Sinukula Naulumatua and the photograph by Shiri.

Then I found a supplement to the Fiji Times because this inportant institution started in Levuka 140 years ago. Happy birthday Fiji Times.
Click on image to be able to read the script if you wish.


from Peceli
There's a little Sheraton in Babasiga land which surprised me! I was fortunate to visit Palmlea resort in the Tabia area, west of Labasa. This is in the Nukutatava area and Joe and Julie have established a lovely eco-friendly holiday place for visitors. Somehow we met on the road and talked and later my brother Dakai and I visited their place in the afternoon. We were very impressed. Dakai who worked for many years in Lautoka in the hotel industry said it's really first class. It's really good to have such a place in Macuata. And the swimming pool, close to the main building is very long. They have a good website so just google 'Palmlea' and there's a lovely write-up in Mailife, so go to http// pdf

Nadi schools

From Peceli,
When I was in Nadi I was able to visit some of the schools where gifts from the Geelong Rotary Donation in Kind were sent. These included a kindergarten, and Nawaka District School which goes up to Class 8 and the older students have to board at the school because they come from distant places. Here are some photos I took there. Two of them show where the children sleep when they are boarding and so far they do not have beds. The computers in a classroom were given from New Zealand.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mao's Last Dancer is Father of the Year

from w
Not a crocodile hunter, not an Ozzie footballer, but a ballet dancer was honoured as Father of the Year in Australia for Father's Day this year. Li Cunxin and his family live in Melbourne where is is now a stockbroker and motivational speaker. I met him one day when he came to Geelong on a book promotion. What a charming man who stood up straight and elegant. The audience were mesmerized by his grace. His amazing story was told in his autobiography, Mao's Last Dancer, which will come out soon as a movie, opening October 1st. A trailer of the movie can be viewed on-line.

However the Father's Day award is not about all that. It's about his values as a parent, particularly with his commitment to helping and healing one of his daughters of her profound deafness.

(Notes below from an Australian news source.)
Li Cunxin is known worldwide as Mao's last dancer.... He lives in Melbourne with his wife and children and has been named the 2009 Shepherd Centre Australian Father of the Year.

"This is indeed a great privilege," he said on receiving his award at a ceremony at NSW Parliament House in Sydney. "I regard this award as recognition of the important contribution all Australian fathers have made for the well-being of our children.

His book told of his upbringing in poverty in communist China before leaving home aged 11 when he undertook a harsh seven-year training regime at the Beijing Dance Academy. He went on to graduate as one of China's best dancers and became one of the first two cultural exchange students under Mao's regime allowed to go to the US to study.

However, after defecting to the US he was locked up in the Chinese Consulate in Houston, causing a political standoff between Washington and Beijing before he was released as a free man.

Mr Li went on to dance with the Houston Ballet for 16 years and performed around the world, meeting and falling in love in London with Australian born ballerina Mary McKendry. They married in 1987 and moved to Melbourne in 1995.

At 34, he studied with the view of becoming a stockbroker while juggling his career as a principal dancer with the Australian ballet.

However, as a father he has also helped his own daughter, Sophie, overcome difficulties after she was diagnosed with profound hearing loss aged just 18 months. Sophie, now 20, was one of the first Australian children to receive bilateral cochlear implants and went on to complete her Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in 2008 and finished in the top five per cent of the state.

Mr Li said he was humbled to have received the award and it was even more poignant following the death of his own father earlier this year. "My values as a father and a family man have been passed down from generation to generation," Mr Li said. "My children are integral in my life."

Though for many people, Father's Day is a lovely day to celebrate the commitment of fathers and grandfathers, but we do need to consider that not everyone has a happy family. Couples separate, people become ill and die, and some women have lost their men in the past year. We didn't make a big deal of it at church this morning because it is a sensitive issue for some of our families. But one tradition we do have is for the women in the congregation to come out the front and sing for the men. Today, I played the piano and they sang a new song, Who do you say that I am to the African tune of Kneels at the feet of his friends. The words are in 'Love to the world' a Bible reading resource and were written by Rev Russell Davies, a retired minister.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Miss Friendly North

from w
The annual festival is on in Labasa this week - the Friendly North and as usual there is a contest among the beautiful babasiga young ladies. Here they are - photo courtesy of Fiji Times and there are more photos in that newspaper's gallery.
(later Sunday: Miss Labasa Town Council, Isabela Vuniwai was crowned as Miss Vodophone Friendly North Queen last night.)

Labasa Internet Cafe

from w
Though there are other shops dIn Labasa where you can access your email and check out the internet such as Govind's, there is now an internet cafe in Labasa. This is the story of a family who recently came to Labasa to live from India. Story from the Fiji Sun and I've shortened it a bit.

Hemal Khatri, 24, is among the young entrepreneurs at Labasa Town. He is also among businessmen in the North who are trying to turn the Labasa economy into a lucrative investment dollar. Khatri was born in India and has fell in love with this South Sea island since arriving in Labasa nine years ago…. Khatri came to Fiji in 2000 with his family after his father; Narendra Khatri was hired by Infashion Company in Labasa, as a factory fashion designer. “Labasa was totally a unique peaceful environment for me and I managed to adjust quickly,” said Hemal.

He attended Gurunanak Primary School enrolling in Class Seven and proceeded to Holy Family Secondary School and the Fiji Institute of Technology. “I always dreamt of becoming a businessman, so I decided to study Diploma in Business and Applied Computing at the FIT Labasa Campus,” said Hemal. After one year of study, he worked as an attaché at Fiji Sugar Corporation Labasa Mill under the information technology (IT) department.

“Six months of attachment without pay was very difficult for me, but my aim was to gain maximum knowledge in IT,” said Hemal. That was not the only problem he experienced as he chased his dreams. He added that he faced a lot of difficulties, especially to catch a bus in the morning and since he was from India, sometimes he accidentally boarded wrong buses. “Although we had a car, I prefer to catch a bus because I wanted to experience what working people and the communities of Labasa face every day,” he added.

The six month attachment was invaluable. He learnt about computer networking, printers, graphical lay-out system and many more relating to IT. After the attachment, he knew he was fully equipped to catch his dream of becoming a businessman.

Hence the birth of Labasa Town’s first and only cyber net café- the Galaxy Cyber Net Café with Hemal Khatri, the young Gujurati lad from India as proprietor and managing director. Why the café? “It was the in-thing and the opportunity was there. There is no cyber café here and it was on my area of expertise. “After my attachment, I took a risk and approached my father to sell our car. It was our only asset and it helped start the business. With that money I opened the shop on August 12 last year. I struggled a lot in the beginning, setting up the shop but I was greatly helped by my schoolmates,” Hemal said….

Cafés started as places for information exchange, and have always been used as places to read the paper, send postcards home play traditional or electronic games, chat to friends and find out local information.

Galaxy Cyber Net Café is not an exception because of its user friendly environment, fast and efficient services and internet access. It is also specialized in typing, printing, networking and computer repairs……

In Fiji internet cafés are closely monitored and close at 5pm daily under the new emergency decree regulation.

I like the last comment. Somebody is watching you. Somebody is checking that you don’t open files you shouldn’t!
The other thing I noticed in the article was the reference to a six month attachment without pay. Now that is a bit harsh. These kids should be paid the minimum wage surely!

The right way to go Samoa?

from w
Samoans are surely disturbed by the new road law that starts next Monday. Used to driving on the right, they now will have to drive on the left. Perhaps this is because of rellies overseas sending them cars from Oz or New Zealand. But imagine a bus (with a right-hand exit) stopping in the middle of the road for passengers to disembark!
Jump in my car, I wanna ta-ake you home
Mmm, jump in my car, it's too far to walk on your ow-own
No thank you sir-ir
Ah, c'mon, I'm a trustworthy guy
No thank you sir-ir
Oh little girl I wouldn't tell you no lie
I know your ga-ame
How can you say that, we only just met
You're all the sa-ame
Ooh, she's got me there, but I'll get her yet
I got you there-ere
No you didn't, I was catchin' my breath
And look it's startin' to rain and baby you'll catch your death
Well, I don't know-ow
Ah, come on it costs nothin' to try
And you'll arrive ho-ome nice

Samoa prepares to drive on the left.
Samoa has vowed to go ahead with an unpopular plan to make drivers switch to the left hand side of the road in a week's time despite mounting public anger.
By Paul Chapman in Wellington
Published: 3:00AM BST 02 Sep 2009

Demonstrations, a petition signed by one-fifth of the population, and a campaign of civil disobedience have all failed to dissuade the government of the normally laid-back Pacific island nation from making the change. Thousands of protesters attended a rally in Apia, the capital, on Monday after a last-ditch plea to the Samoa Supreme Court failed when a judge ruled that the government was acting within the constitution.

In an unrelenting tide of opposition, new "keep left" road signs have been taken down by activists and arrows newly painted on roads have been vandalised so they point the wrong way.

At least two villages have pledged to make drivers switch back to the right hand side when they pass through, and a bus owner has threatened to set his vehicles alight in protest.

A track specially set aside in the capital for people to practise driving on the left remains unused.

Samoa, population 189,000, has driven on the right since it became a German colony in the early 20th century, although it was administered by New Zealand after the First World War and gained independence in 1962. The switch, due to take place on September 7, will make Samoa the first country to swap sides since Ghana in 1974, and the first within living memory to change from right to left.

Only one-third of the world's 6.7 billion people live in countries that keep left.

The idea is the brainchild of Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Prime Minister, who has angered opponents by claiming that it takes only three minutes to learn to drive on the left. He argues that the change will mean the 170,000 expatriate Samoans who live in Australia and New Zealand, which both drive on the left, will be able to send home cheap right-hand drive vehicles. It will also mean that inexpensive used cars can be imported from Japan, which drives on the left.

Most vehicles currently in Samoa are gas-guzzling left-hand drive models imported from the United States and nearby American Samoa. Opponents have warned that switching sides will cause accident rates to soar among the many left-hand drive vehicles.

Bus owners, faced with changing over the doors on all their vehicles so that passengers do not step out into the middle of the road, say they will be forced out of business. Nanai Tawan, owner of Mapuitiga Transport, said: "I would rather bring my buses to parliament and burn them there for parliament to see what they are doing to us." Among others particularly hard hit are car dealers.

Last week's abortive court action was brought by a group called PASS (People Against Switching Sides), which has led the chorus of protest.

Veo Papa, a leading member of the group, said she hoped "that the frustration and anger as we approach the day is not going to spark violence". The government has declared September 7 and 8 public holidays to give people time to get used to the change. Graham Williams, a New Zealand crash investigator, predicted a "dramatic increase" in the number of crashes, especially in rural areas.