Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Bereavement in Geelong

(Wednesday morning) Last night about forty of us drove to a home in Moolap to pay our respects to the family of Siteri, some who had come from overseas. We gave mats, masi, kava and an envelope of money to assist with the funeral. We sang dozens of Fijian hymns - loud and clear and I was proud of our Geelong group for their attendance and fine singing. Drinking kava was part of the event. The custom of reguregu is held prior to the funeral which will be on Friday morning. The family gave us a nice curry dinner afterwards.

 I wrote this at our writing group at the Wintergarden yesterday. 

A Woman from Levuka

‘Sai Levuka ga’ we sing of a favourite town in Fiji with a row of wooden shops hugging the shore, a cemetery with historical markers, a town backed by a green wall of 
a mountain. Siteri was a child from the island of Ovalau in Lomaiviti. 

Moving to the main island, raising four children, she lived in Suva before migrating to Australia with Geoff. We met in East Geelong a few years ago. She came with her second daughter, Christine while Litea, Andrew and Kevin stayed in Fiji. Siteri established a good relationship with members of our local Unitng Church, had a reserved seat in the congregation and joined in our Fiji group. When a grand-daughter was born she ably helped with minding and later walking to school. I remember the baptism, barbecues at Eastern Beach, gatherings of dinner, kava and yarning with Fiji friends, her excellence in baking cakes and Fijian food, her lovely prayers from the heart. 

Her family came over to visit and we welcomed them – her mother Nanise, and children Litea, Kevin, Andrew. A terrible bus accident in Fiji took her mother and many others and that trauma we will remember. Later, through a time of illness, Siteri was courageous, still smiling and she was assured that God was alongside in that journey. Eventually her body let her down and her time on earth came to an end. 

In God’s grace her Spirit lives on. As we wear black, place barkcloth and mats and flowers on a grave and sing Fijian hymns such as ‘Kaya oti na noda Kalou’ we remember Siteri. Nowadays the song’ Sai Levuka ga’ is also a song of remembrance and our memory of Siteri, a lovely woman of Levuka.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Regarding village by-laws

Fiji Sun ran an article about Fijian village by-laws in today's paper.  It's good to think about how to make life in a village manageable between modernity and tradition though I hope it will not just be older people imposing their views and restricting youth. I hope it's about teaching respect and how a community functions well.

But there is dissent - Ratuva says it's not a good idea.  In today's Fiji Times:

Ratuva: Village bylaws not good

Margaret Wise
Thursday, March 23, 2017
THE introduction of village bylaws is not a good idea, says New Zealand-based political sociologist Professor Steven Ratuva.
Prof Ratuva said the bylaws were first introduced by British colonialists to separate the iTaukei from indentured labourers.
The result of this "compartmentalisation" of the races had "terrible" consequences on the iTaukei, he said.
The former University of the South Pacific academic made the statements while speaking at the historic International Conference on Indian Indentureship and Girmitiya Descendants at the University of Fiji's Saweni campus in Lautoka yesterday.
He was speaking on the topic "Crossing Paths: Rethinking iTaukei and Girmit relations".
Prof Ratuva said Fijians were over-administered and over-managed during the colonial days.
"Village bylaws is not new," he said.
"Both the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei and Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua governments tried to bring it back.
"Now FijiFirst wants to bring it back. The leaders of the iTaukei have been obsessed with this romantic notion from the colonial days that it could solve the problem of crime, solve the problem of mass migration into cities, solve the problem of poverty, discipline and so forth.
"During the colonial days the British put in place these walls and this forced the iTaukei into living subsistence lives.
"It discouraged the iTaukei from getting educated, it discouraged them from the potential to develop, and entrepreneurial skills were undermined.
"Village bylaws were a system of control because it ensured the iTaukei was kept separate from Indo-Fijians.
"It was easier for the British to control and administer two divided communities.
"They governed by 'divide and rule'. They said it was to protect the superior race, to protect the corruption of their culture.
"In fact it protected them against education, commerce and professional advancement.
"In the 1960s when they opened up the Fijian administration and allowed more mobility, the iTaukei realised they were far behind the other ethnic groups.
"So those grievances were rooted in the Fijian administration and some flowed into nationalistic mobilisation, and that as we know caused tension and political instability."
Prof Ratuva said the connection with girmit was interesting.
He said what the iTaukei needed was a system of innovation.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bua mining dirties river

Told you so. So many people said this would happen but the mine went ahead.

Villagers claim mine spill destroying fishing grounds

Luke Rawalai
Monday, March 20, 2017
PEOPLE in Nasarawaqa, Bua and those living along the Dreketi River claim the decline in marine resources around the area is due to spillage of waste water from the bauxite mining in Naibulu, Dreketi.
Sasake villager Apisalome Tumuri claimed that the spill off from the mine during heavy rain forced marine life out from the area to the deep sea.
The 52-year-old fisherman claims there had been a lot of changes in their fishing ground since mining began in nearby Naibulu, Dreketi.
Mr Tumuri said fish, crabs and bech-de-mer had begun disappearing from their fishing grounds during the past three years. He said in the past, villagers could pick shellfish and fetch mud crabs from nearby mangroves.
He said they now had to go out into the open sea to get these.
Dreketi resident Losana Lomani said the Dreketi River had turned red last week after heavy rain was experienced in the area.
Ms Lomani said they learnt that the muddy water originated from the mining site and that women in the area found it hard to find freshwater mussels in the river.
XINFA Aurum Exploration Fiji Ltd's senior officer Sang Lei said the muddy water witnessed by villagers was normal rain run-off from land.
Mr Lei said all waste water from the mine was contained in the sediment pond at the mine and that none had seeped into the waterways as claimed.
Responding to queries, permanent secretary for Lands and Mineral Resources Ministry Malakai Finau said it was normal for the sea to turn muddy during heavy rain.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Good and bad results in schools

from Fiji Village:  And it is surprising that schools that copped it bad during Cyclone Winston actually did very well in the exam results. And some Suva schools have apparently done poorly.
Teachers will have to change their teaching styles - Prasad
By Dhanjay Deo and Lena Reece
Thursday 16/03/2017

File Photo.
Teachers will have to change their teaching styles to keep students interested during classes.
The President of the Fiji Principals Association Kamlesh Prasad says that teaching methods need to change with time to address the issue of low pass rates.He adds if teachers fail to keep a student engaged during a class then they will continue to face this issue.
Prasad says addressing the issue of low pass rates is part of the reason that the 119th Fiji Principals Association Conference theme is “Excellence Through Inclusive Leadership”.He says that the need for inclusive leadership is to compete and to compete is to be creative and innovative with their teaching methods.
Prasad also hopes that teachers will be committed to diversity to help tackle the issue of low pass rates in examinations.
The Education Ministry has revealed that the pass rate for Mathematics for last year was 36 percent, 42 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2014.Chemistry is another subject where low-pass-rates have been recorded.There was only 10 percent pass rate in 2014, 34 percent in 2015 and 49 percent pass rate was recorded for last year.Physics also recorded low pass rate, which was 28 percent in 2014, 57 percent in 2015 and 45 percent last year. 
The Suva-based schools also recorded a very low 36 percent pass rate last year for the Year 12 Exam while it was 58 percent for the Nausori-based schools.
Schools from Ba/Tavua who went through some troubled times during and after Tropical Cyclone Winston recorded 100 percent pass rate last year for the Year 12 Exam while they achieved 86 percent pass rate for the Year 13 Exam.
Table 1
Source: Ministry of Education

Table 2
Source: Ministry of Education

Table 3
e: Ministry of EducationTable 3
Source: Ministry of Education

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A sermon about the blind man

I've been asked to organise a church service when our minister goes on a holiday to China. It's for March 26th so I've got in early and the tasks have been allocated to elders, children, and includes a play.  Here's the draft of the sermon part.  Hey, I haven't preached for years, and then hardly ever. I left that to Talatala Peceli but isa lei he's not with us any more. This is the second draft and I have deleted the first draft which was all over the place.
Sermon Draft for Sunday March 26

The blind man stood by the road and he cried
Oh, show me the way, the way to go home.


Darkness can be frightening.  When you are in an unfamiliar place and it is pitch black. I remember one time we had to pole across a river and were returning from visiting relatives in a Fijian village, Navuso. It was getting dark, and by the time we reached the other side of the river it was pitch black. Not a single light in sight.  I was with our grand-children Jordan and Andrew, and Andrew said, ‘Don’t worry Grandma, I know the way.’ He was about eight at the time. So I grabbed his hand as we walked down a rough track about 100 metres to reach the road to catch a passing taxi. Show me the way to go home, I was thinking. Anyway at last we saw the wink of lights from a house near the road and my panic ceased.

With low vision such as myopia means to be  able to see your hands, a book, the computer, close up – but can’t see well enough to cross the road.  Can’t tell the difference between a wheelbarrow and a dog in the garden.  We wear spectacles or contact lenses. How many people need and use glasses? Plenty.  Some people even as small children.  Imagine a seven-year-old girl at Swan Hill Primary School. The teacher writes on the blackboard ‘Go home’ and tells the forty children to follow the words. One girl sitting up the front who can read and write well at her desk is the last to leave. She can’t see the board. The teacher realizes that she needs glasses so writes a letter for the girl to take home to her mother. Next week the girl is wearing round glasses  (like Harry Potter’s) but she is amazed at what the world looks like. She wore those awful looking glasses throughout her school years but at least she could see to read, paint, play the piano, climb trees, chase sheep.

Life is very hard for some people with handicaps such as being blind . Imperfect vision in the days of Jesus meant the person was not independent, could not really look after himself or herself, had a limited scope of knowledge of the world, mainly just what he could touch near him. 

The story is in John’s Gospel concerns  a man blind from birth who sits by a pathway near the Pool of Siloam and begs.  People have always told him, -hey you, your blindness was because you are a sinner or your Mum and Dad are sinners. That was the view of the people of that culture. That the cause of disability was what people did.  In the Middle East two thousand years ago the people did not have the scientific knowledge that we take for granted today, that with short-sight – myopia – a pair of spectacles can give 20 20 vision. We  know that blindness is not caused by the sin of the parents or the sin of a person.  It may be caused by living in a place where sand is in the air much of the time. It may be caused by a defect at birth. Or a potential for eye trouble in the DNA. It may be deterioration with aging such as macular degeneration.

But wait.... Jesus puts spit on the eyes of the man begging then tells him to wash in the nearby Pool of Siloam.
The Pool of Siloam is a rock-cut pool on the southern slope of the City of David, the original site of Jerusalem, located outside the walls of the Old City to the southeast. The pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring, carried there by two aqueducts. Other stories of blind men being healed in the other gospels talk of a healing in the town of Jericho. Different.


The man follows this instruction. The cloudiness disappears and he can actually see.  See people. See his friends.  See the blue sky.  See flowers. He is amazed. This is a miracle. Perfect vision gives the man the ability to have new experiences, to see the river, see the mountain, to be able to move about safely, and of course to see the faces of his family and the face of Jesus.


Now the story in the gospel of John goes on.  Friends took the man to the Pharisees as the custom then was to show the Jewish leaders that the man is now normal and cured. The pharisees don’t say – how marvellous, how wonderful at all.  They continue with the old superstition about sins of the parents.  And also -they want to trap Jesus. He has done this healing on the precious Sabbath, day when Jews are not allowed to work at all! Romans could but not Jews. They even ask the parents of the man what had happened, but the parents are careful in their answer knowing that to acknowledge that Jesus does miracles, is dangerous  They say – he’s grown up, ask him yourself, and the man of course says, yes I am cured.

Then the critics replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

Spiritual Blindness

The story does not end there.  Jesus meets with the man again.  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said,[a] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
What does Jesus mean then?  Perhaps he is talking about truth, seeing the truth. The once blind man now sees reality, not only a physical reality of the people in the street, the sky, the donkey walking past, but the reality of knowing who Jesus is. A spiritual relationship, a spiritual reality which the critics do not see.

So there is more to dark and light than physical.  There’s a kind of symbolic meaning in the story. It is not only physical light after darkness, but a spiritual awakening, a new kind of seeing what life is about, that going home for the blind man is not just to his house but it’s to know that he has met the Messiah, that there is a relationship with God.  And Jesus says yes, that’s it.

This is what I believe.  That we are created to be in a relationship with one another, with family, with friends, with community, with our social world, and we are created to be in a relationship with our Creator, God.


We are sometimes like that blind man sitting by the road crying out ‘Show me the way.  And like the blind man we continually are curious, we seek answers to questions, especially where am I going to. What is the purpose of my life. Show me the way.

Just as darkness limits our experience of the world, our knowledge, our relationships, to be in the light means knowledge, experience,  an appreciation of beauty, and relationships with people. And Jesus implies that children of the light also have a relationship with our Father God.
As we read in Corinthians:

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
The blind man sat by the road and he cried
Oh, show  me the way.

We all sit by the road and we cry
Oh, show me the way.

And the answer:
Jesus says: I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life
And the way to go home,
and our response:
You are the way, You are the truth, You are the life
And the way to go home.

Show me the way to go home
Home is a place where we feel secure, safe, optimistic, in relationships with family and a base for relationships with neighbours and community. But...is the word ‘home’ used here to mean a view of the future after this life – that is - heaven?  That’s how it is used in many hymns of the 19th century. ‘I am coming home’. An old hymn expresses the view that we need God to show us the way in a time of difficulties. We need light in the darkness.  Lead, Kindly Light is a hymn with words written in 1833 by John Henry Newman. Certainly we need guidance in our world that has gone tipsy turvy at times with gross selfishness and violence.
"Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
"Lead, Kindly Light" was sung by Betsie ten Boom, and other women as they were led by the S.S. Guards to the concentration camp Ravensbruck during the Holocaust.
Lead, Kindly Light was sung by a soloist on the Titanic during a hymn-singing gathering led by Rev. Ernest C. Carter, shortly before the ocean liner struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Lead, Kindly Light was sung by British troops to the accompaniment of nearby artillery fire during the 1st World War at services held before going into the trenches the following day.
So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
Thyself hast trod,
Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
Home to my God.
To rest forever after earthly strife
In the calm light of everlasting life."

And a verse from one of my favourite hymns ‘In heavenly love abiding’
2 Wherever he may guide me,
no want shall turn me back;
my Shepherd is beside me,
and nothing can I lack:
his wisdom ever waketh,
his sight is never dim,
he knows the way he taketh,
and I will walk with him.

And in our second reading for today which will be read at the close of today’s service – from Ephesians 5:8-14 New International Version:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 

Show me the way.   The way to go home.  It is the way of Jesus.  It is to know truth and see what life is really about. No longer living in shadows, of not seeing, of guessing, of limits. Of seeing people in a real way, no longer just thinking of yourself and your needs, but having empathy for other people, kin, friends, networks and eventually to a world view of all people. And, walking with Jesus in that journey.