Friday, 19 February 2010

Prayer and fasting for Fiji

On Tuesday this week we had a visit from Aquila Yabaki, Chief Executive of the Fijian Citizens Constitutional Forum. I last met Aquila in Fiji on a visit there in 2006 and was impressed with the work of the Citizens Constitutional Forum. It advocates for good governance and human rights. It promotes the principle of equal rights across all ethnic groups and sectors of the population.

The Methodist Church in Fiji is the largest church by far. Its membership represents one third of the population. Following the military coup of December 2006, the Constitution and Parliament were suspended. Since then, Methodist Church leaders have been arrested and the Methodist Conference and other gatherings banned. The Methodist Church has been unable to obtain permits for any meetings other than for weekly worship.

The leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji opposed the 2006 coup. However, there was no such opposition to the previous military coup in 2000 which overthrew a newly elected government that had strong support from the non-indigenous Indio-Fijian population numbering around 40% of the population of Fiji.

Aquila was returning from Geneva where he was presenting evidence to the Human Rights Council for a
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Fiji’s human rights. He helped us to reflect on the importance of assessing rights with the intention of ensuring equal rights for all. As Christians our primary interest should not be with those abuses that pertain largely to ourselves; a lesson as relevant for us in the UK as it is for Christians in Fiji or anywhere else.

It is absolutely right that the Church should be involved in the great political and justice issues of our day and the leaders and people of the Methodist Church in Fiji need our support, prayer and fasting. How fortunate we are in the UK to live in a land where speaking out does not run the risk of being locked up.