Sunday, February 28, 2010

Church and State

from w
I came across this article and thought it worth posting for consideraton as it does not only view the church as impeccable but acknowledges weaknesses also.
In Defence of the Methodist Church
By SWM for a better Fiji

How did the perceived political relationship of the state and the Wesleyan Methodist church in Fiji come about despite no formal constitutional recognition? For an understanding of this perception we rely on, Commissioner of Colo East in 1884, Adolf Brewster in his wide chronicle as colonial administrator, ‘The Hill Tribes of Fiji’.

In his chapter on ‘State and Church’, Brewster proclaims, “Wesleyanism, owing to its dominant numbers has come to be tacitly acknowledged as the state religion, although it has no official recognition as such.” This assertion remains extant today because of the civilizing influence but more so the spiritual salvation of Christianity that has now been embedded into Fijian culture and individual consciousness. Into the future Brewster’s hypothesis may still have greater currency.

With the ever increasing 57 % Fijian population, (2007census) the Methodist church and its adherents will still be the de facto ‘king maker’ in Fiji politics akin to Catholics in many Christian countries. As an example, the church’s role in Poland and the Philippines as the catalyst for the fall of communisism and the dspotic dictator bears to mind.

Otherwise for Fiji, the Methodists unofficial relation with the state remains a powerful vote or veto in elections. Hence the churches influence cannot be discarded as insignificant even with the illegal regimes proclaimed election reforms as presently touted. In the United States the WASP, Catholic and Evangelical religious votes are openly wooed by Presidential candidates.

For Fijians coping with modernity, it is religion that anchors his identity to his community. For he has learnt that tradition is somewhat an illusion of permanence and has sought change. In 1876 Ms C.F. Cummings witnesses in her rich descriptive ‘At Home in Fiji’ the power of the new religion in Dreketi, Macuata. She enthuses, “Reverend Langham gave the multitude what seemed a most impressive little address and a few minutes later the whole 3,000 were kneeling prostrate on the grass. It was a very striking scene remembering that some people were only emerging from heathenism; but they are so very cordial to the mission”. For today’s faithful this reverence for Christianity and its tenets has endured and has even transcended their respect for chiefs in truly uniting them as described by Cummings.

Simply it can be said that through greater Methodist influence modern Fijian society was born. The establishing of Methodist urban circuits in Fiji from the 1960’s to today in Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, California and the UK is testimony to this now global unifying force for Fijians.

As it were, this modern unifying force first surfaced in the failed attempt to create a Christian state as spelled out with the Wakaya Letter of 1963.

This letter articulated Fijian political aspirations post independence signed by a few elite chiefs. However this agenda was eventually compromised during the Alliance -NFP pre independence constitutional talks. Ironically what was finally achieved was a mirage of political paramountcy for the Fijians, parity for the Indians and privilege for the part Europeans. Again, in the 1997 Constitution despite Christian zealot attempts to sway government the modern democratic theory of separation of state and church remained intact.

As for the enduring bond between the Military and the Church, Brewster confides, “In my time it was the only domination whose members were employed and paid as chaplains by the government. Every Sunday at Nadarivatu I attended the Armed Native Constabulary church parades, the service being conducted by our native Wesleyan padre”. This tradition still continues as in far off Fiji military stations in Egypt and Iraq, the cradle of human civilization and monotheism religion.

So it can be derived that it was Methodist Wesleyan influence through its clergymen that has in the main acted as the moral compass for Fiji’s military and its leadership and where the state institution finds itself established and entrenched today. Coups and all!

Herein lays the inherent human fault. Down through the years military chaplains have rose to become Presidents and held other important executive positions in the church. These former and serving padres have confused their military and pastoral roles in times of political turmoil. The tension between the church and the state embodied by the military has been fuelled to a large measure by their duplicity. Methodist clergymen have way led their flock. This criticism time and time again has been laid against some of them. Much as it was wrong it was Brewster’s hypothesis that in part spurred Rabuka’s supremacist coup and drove Reverend Lasaro and followers to take matters into their hands in the 1989 Sunday Ban protests. This led to them infringing on public and church law which led to the unlawful ousting of Reverend Josateki Koroi the Methodist President and the damaging court case that ruled for the ejected President.

Again as it was, during the ‘Truth and Justice Campaign’ prior to the elections, the military had openly used its chaplains and former chaplain network within Fijian society to foster its ‘guardian’ role of the state. Thanks to the ‘Christian spiritual guidance’ from these so called men of the cloth, the 2006 coup was unleashed.

Presently the regime’s quest to weaken the Methodist church’s inherent influence over the state through its believers is seen with the decreed postponement of its annual conference or Bose ko Viti till whenever. This is despite Brewster’s enduring hypothesis.

Kai Colo
And here is a nice segue from today's Fijivillage:
Religion plays an important role
Publish date/time: 01/03/2010 [12:58]

This is time religion plays an important role in the nation building and to move the country forward.

That was the message from the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau when he addressed members of the Muslim community during the Prophet Mohammed birthday celebrations at the Vodafone Arena said that

Ratu Epeli said the Peoples Charter has highlighted that we should work together for a better Fiji and come together closely to be united as one with high hopes for a better future for our generations to come.

He believes that religion lays the foundation of our future and how it will look but it will depend on us on what we do with it whether and we can accept each other in our multi-racial society will be the biggest challenge any religion will face in their everyday lives.

The 300 plus crowd who were present at the Vodafone Arena was then challenged by the President if they can live up to the expectation of their leader Prophet Mohammed and instead of making excuses.
or perhaps not a segue but a leap sideways!


Andrew Thornley said...

Thanks for that interesting post Wendy.

Anonymous said...

despite its inaccuracies.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Hello Anonymous,
so what were the mistakes in the article?