Friday, December 06, 2013

Is Fiji secular or religious?

from w
The journalists of course select what they write when observing a debate or event. Here is how Fiji Sun saw such a situation at a conference. I sometimes alter paragraphing as journalists tend to use only one sentence per paragraph which isn't necessary.   So what are the differences in the viewpoints?

Churches speak out

The Catholic and Methodist Church still do not think Fiji is ready for a secular state. Their reason is that Section 4 (1) of the 2013 Constitution reads that religion is personal.Archbishop Father Peter Loy Chong and Reverend James Bhagwan were speakers during Day One of the Attorney-General’s Conference, where they spoke about Religion in a Secular State.

Archbishop Chong said while the Catholic Church was not against a secular state, Fiji was too religious to become a secular state.

The Methodists, on the other hand, have already started discussing what they believe is the worst that can come out of a secular state.

Reverend Bhagwan, who is the secretary for communication, Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, in his presentation said that when secularism was taken to an extreme, it could lead to several scenarios which included even banning religious education. He said that the church could not be confined in a private space. “A Fijian with his or her religious or non-religious conviction is at the same time a member of society and a citizen of the state,” Reverend Bhagwan said.
“The Constitution dictates that as a secular state there ought to be a sort of neutrality on the issue of religion. However, public institutions work according to a set of values whether they acknowledge them or not. So when they claim to be  neutral with regards to religious or other beliefs, that is a myth at best and a lie at worst,” he said.

Archbishop Chong also shared his sentiments, which were along the same lines. He said faith-based organisations needed to have a say in the society.

When the floor opened for questions, former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem attempted to debunk some misconceptions of the two church leaders. She informed them that being a secular state would not stop anyone or any religious organisation from praying wherever they wanted. “If they want to pray in Albert Park, they can. The role of a secular state is to have no interference by religious bodies; not to curtail their prayers,” Ms Shameem.

Another lawyer also clarified to the two that Section 4(1) is not read and interpreted in isolation and that years down the line, the interpretation of private would not be changed to mean the confines of one’s home.

After the session, both leaders still chose to stand their ground.

--------------------------- And also:

Arya backs secular state

The Arya Pratinidhi Sabha is willing to keep an open mind about provisions in the Constitution which reads that state and religion are to be separate.
Sabha patron and University of Fiji pro-chancellor, Pundit Bhuwan Dutt, says it is good to maintain a degree of privacy where religion is concerned.
“Some benefits of a secular state are that people feel free to practice their religion which is very close to their hearts. This brings about a feeling of unity and removes distrust in the community.
“Secular state also ensures equal treatment of all faiths. All faiths have some common goals such as spreading their faith in the community.
“Therefore, all faiths should be given equal treatment so that they are free to do what they have set out to do. Of course, what each faith does must not cause problems for other faiths or the community,” he said.
Pundit Bhuwan is also of the view that having a secular state would encourage interfaith gathering for building better understanding.
“The existence of a secular state provides a free and healthy environment for citizens to do what they are happy with for their spiritual development,” he said.
---------------- And in the Fiji Times we read:
Archbishop maintains public view
Felix Chaudhary
Saturday, December 07, 2013
ARCHBISHOP Peter Loy Chong maintained yesterday that as a theologian, he could not compromise on his belief that religion was a public matter.
Speaking at a panel discussion on religion and secular state at the 15th Attorney-General's Conference in Natadola, the head of the Catholic Church in Fiji said his response to the argument mirrored that of the head of the global Catholic faith.
"We do not have a problem with Fiji being called a secular state," he said. "The church supports the separation of State and religion, that priests and the clergy cannot be involved in politics.
"However, faith and religion should not be a private matter. It cannot be a mere personal event, it calls for public expression. We have a contribution to society based on divine truth and religion should be an essential part of society. The biggest issue here is we look at it from a theological point of view while others look at it from a legalistic point of view."The archbishop said he would encourage his flock to continue discussions on this provision in the Constitution and he hoped the government would hold more dialogue on the issue.

Reverend James Bhagwan, secretary for communication for the Methodist Church, said the issue lay in the definition of a secular state in the Constitution. He said this meant the church must speak the truth, in love, and responding to the issues of injustice and poverty.
--And also:

Academic defends separation of church and state

Felix Chaudhary
Saturday, December 07, 2013
THE 2013 Constitution clearly defines the separation of religion and State for the first time ever in Fiji's independent history.
Speaking at a panel discussion on religion and secular state at the 15th Attorney-General's Conference, Professor Vijay Naidu from the University of the South Pacific said in his view, countries such as Fiji, where there were a multiplicity of religions and those with no adherents at all, the best form of government was a secular state that was neutral with respect to religion but, at the same time, defended religious freedom.
"Past constitutions did not make the separation crystal clear, although none sought to privilege a religion or religious denomination over others," he said. "So since independence, over four decades ago, Fiji's constitutions have maintained the separation of religion and the State. However, in terms of the country's recent history, there was a strong campaign to make Christianity the State religion.This was especially so during the period immediately following the 1987 and 2000 coups."

Prof Naidu said submissions to the Professor Yash Ghai Constitution Commission in 2012 included pleas to make Fiji a Christian state."However, the Ghai draft constitution made explicit provisions on the separation of religion and the State. These have been further clarified and detailed by the 2013 Constitution on the secular State."
---------------And then Fiji Village journalist has a different take.
Priest or clergies cannot be involved in Politics-Archbishop
Publish date/time: 07/12/2013 [09:27]
The Catholic Church together with the Methodist Church of Fiji has urged for a much more clear meaning of a secular state which has been stated in the new constitution.

This has been raised during the 15th Attorney General's Conference in Natadola yesterday.

Archbishop of Suva Father Peter Loy Chong said the Catholic Church will maintain a clear stand and priest or clergies cannot be involved in Politics.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please loginto listen.

Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Methodist Church Reverend James Bhagwan said matters of dealing with the church and the state is not an issue for them as the church deals with the society and they will work towards building a positive society.

Bhagwan added he is grateful of this kind of discussions and the Methodist Church looks forward to continue an open dialogue with the government in the future.

Story by: Aliki Bia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SeeFiji: A case study paradox