I don't think this interview really says much - Hill does not understand the intricacies of how the Fiji Methodist Church is integrated into the Fijian vanua, but still holds the rest of the Fiji community with respect. The ethnic division has been over-emphasied by Hill. What happened twenty-six years ago - that's an old story. The tensions with the current government are not about that, but the wariness of criticism. The heading here is rather misleading. However it is a good thing that Rev Josateki will be involved though it's been rather tardy. Rev Dr Sevati Tuwere will be in Fiji also which is excellent. In my view a concentration on the spiritual (without the social justice emphasis on the Kingdom of God) isn't enough.
Fiji Methodists seek harmony between rival factions
Updated 14 August 2013, 19:09 AEST
Fijian nationalists dominated the church in the 1980s, leading to the imposition of Christian laws on non-Christians after the 1987 coups, but there is also a strong faction that wants to concentrate on faith matters rather than ethnic politics.
There have been serious tensions between the Methodist Church and the coup installed military government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama since the 2006 coup.
But as deputy general secretary Reverend Tevita Banivanua explains to Bruce Hill, the church is concentrating on its own internal renewal at the moment.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Fiji Methodist church deputy general secretary Reverend Tevita Banivanua
BAINVANUA: The Methodist Church was divided into two different factions in the late 80's, when Lasaro and Koroi had that difficulty eh. We are trying to bring the two factions together, so that Josateki Koroi and the immediate past president who normally does these things will join together in inducting the new president as a sign that there is unity within the church and then we will take it on from there to move into reconciliation like washing of feet and all this next year as we celebrate the 50th. anniversary of our conference.
HILL: For the benefit of our listeners who aren't familiar with the history of the church in Fiji. You're referring here to the split between Fijian-ethno nationalists in the church who were very prominent in the late 1980s and in the aftermath of the 1987 coup. It was pretty clear that the Methodist Church as a whole supported that coup and was doing activities that were seen as being aimed at Indo-Fijians, in particular, and many people have said well, look if the church is getting a few problems from the interim government at the moment, the church kind of deserves it?
BAINVANUA: Yes, that was how it looked to the general public eh. But it was more than that. All we're trying to do now is to mend the broken net of the church as a whole.
HILL: Do you think that can be done that the ethno-Nationalists stream in the church and the more universalist, more religiously centred stream can come together and work together?
BAINVANUA: As you notice Bruce, we're trying now our very best. I think we are successful so far and the move forward now to have a united or connectional plan that we will be working together in and all the other programs and projects that we are trying to do together here are all goes well for the future of the Methodist Church.
HILL: What about relations with other Christian churches and, indeed, interfaith relations with other religions in Fiji?
BAINVANUA: That is part and parcel of our national plan eh and the faith, so we will continue to pursue that line so the reconciliation process will start from within and then we'll move into those areas.
HILL: What kind of a church does the Fiji Methodist Church want to become, as opposed to where it is now. It's been identified with a strong stream of ethnic Fijian identity. But from what you're saying, it seems like the church wants to focus inwards and become a bit more of a church than just a representative of one ethnic group?
BAINVANUA: Yes, ah, I'm sorry to say that our involvement then was more ethnicity area. So we just want to become the church of Jesus, the church of the New Testament, the church of the Bible. So our president, he's been emphasising that and picking up the bible as the main stage within the church, rather than culture and all these other areas, which are important as well. But I know sometimes they determine what the church does.
Now, we are trying to refocus and go back into the roots of the church as in the New Testament and in the Bible.
HILL; What about the churches political role today. You have rather famously got into some arguments with the interim government since the 2006 coup. What's your attitude towards that now?
BAINVANUA: The government has that idea behind them, because they think the church now is the same church as then. So we're trying to show them that no, this is a different church. We are moving into a different area now and they should trust us and work with us and we work with them.
HILL: They don't necessarily trust you, because the police, I understand, have to look at your agenda before you have the conference and approve it first, which is kind of unusual for a church, isn't it?
BAINVANUA: Yeah, and they came here, because this is a military government and these little things are part and parcel of their strategy. So whether we can say that they trust us or not, we hope that they do eh, because in all that we are doing, we are just trying to help them to trust us more, because we are not enemies of Fiji.