Here's a good story from today's Fiji Times about a Fijian pastor in Labasa who is committed to the Fiji Indian community in his area. The Friendly North is how Labasa people see themselves. (Though not always - I remember a time in 2000 when there was confusion and abnormal behaviour in Labasa when there was trouble in the military barracks and the usual friendliness evaporated.) It takes patience and commitment to go beyond the easy path of just being associated with your own language and cultural group, but it certainly is the way of progress.
Learning different languages in primary and secondary school is a good starter for communication. Way to go, Rev Manoa! Just like in Navua, at Timothy Memorial Church, another Fijian talatala, Rev Waisake, is building up some rural church communities.
Reverend lives for unity, peace
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Reverend Manoa Kalouniviti pins a prefect's badge on a student at Bainivalu Primary School. Reverend Manoa Kalouniviti has been working as an Indian community christian pastor for the past 19 years.
He believes the lack of knowledge and understanding of cultures (Indian and Fijian) is the greatest crime people commit. He blames Christians for their lack of commitment and persistance to reach across the fence first as the Bible teaches and learn other cultures. For when Christians miss that, he says, they miss the promise of prosperity they believe in. For without peace, understanding and working hard to alleviate differences first, there can never be prosperity."Acceptance will only come about if we fully understand each others ways first," Mr Kalouniviti said.
He says every Christian knows this, that God's blessing will be showered when love is first bonded. Without that first step that we must take, we can never prosper as Christrians," he says. Christianity, he says, is a religion of love and understanding. Quoting from the Bible, he speaks of a prophet named Paul who said, "When I go to the Romans, I become a Roman. To the Jews, I am a Jew."
"We can never be true Fijian Christians and dictate things from our chair like making a country wide call for everyone to be a Christian and expect them to fit into that Christian culture," he says.
He was already working for the church before the founding of his first Indian community church in 1991 at his wife's village in Nabaikavu, Labasa when the coups took place in 1987 and then in 2000. As victims of the two upheavals, Indians questioned his leadership and the love he promised them in the name of religion.
Indians, he says, at that time felt insecure when they were chased and tormented by those who filled churches on Sundays. "It was the same religion I so fondly spoke about to them," he said. "It is the wisdom of understanding people and their culture that will play the most important role at a time when it is questioned. It is our deep understanding and knowledge of their culture and language that eased their feelings of insecurity even before we preached the word of God to them."
They were able to bridge every breaking point they came to during those years.
Sharing his dreams with his five children, he had them educated in school where they could learn other cultures and languages. His youngest, a son who is still two years old is being raised in an Indian family home and speaks fluent Hindi. His father hopes for the day when the son will continue the work his parents started. In the same way, the Reverend learnt to speak, read and write Hindi while he attended Boubale Indian School in Labasa from Class One to Eight in 1977. His wife attended Nabekavu Primary School which was closer to the airport at Waiqili settlement and just metres away from Bulileka Village where he is from. Their villages were both surrounded by Indian villages and farmers whom they socialised and interacted with throughout their young lives.
Like soul partners, they both knew how to write and speak Hindi by the time they met and founded their first Indian community church in 1991 and worked throughout the northern and the western division. They believe and yearn to see a time when there is unity among the different races in the country.