PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


FIJI VICE PRESIDENT SLAPS QARASE ON RELIGION

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Mar. 26) – Fiji's overtly Christian government came under fire from Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi on Good Friday for excluding half the population when it makes religious statements.

Addressing a Hindu gathering, Ratu Joni said the government is diminishing others of different faiths when it makes pronouncements in Christian terms.

"When national leaders address the people of Fiji in specifically Christian terms, whatever the occasion, nearly half of our people are excluded," Ratu Joni said in a speech. "When prayer in mixed company is uttered in terms of a purely Christian God, we unintentionally omit and diminish others present of different faiths. When we use Christian symbolism to promote reconciliation, forgiveness and unity, we discount the contribution and equally rich traditions extant in other faiths and cultural traditions."

Ratu Joni's censure came as Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase issued a message on Good Friday in which he said Fiji's win at the Rugby Sevens World Cup was "an Easter lesson for us all."

Qarase said: "In this year which the government has dedicated to forgiveness and reconciliation, let us take every opportunity to keep that spirit and the joy of Christ's resurrection alive in our lives."

The government, and in particular, Qarase, have attributed success publicly to God on many occasions with full-page newspaper reproductions of his speeches at events such as prayer breakfasts.

Earlier this year, the government organised a church service of "thanksgiving" for the civil service at Suva's Centenary Methodist Church.

March 28, 2005

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