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Source: RADIO AUSTRALIA PACIFIC BEAT
The new president of the Methodist Church, Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, has given a revealing interview to Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat.
The views he expressed put him at odds with the positions of Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and his Government.
The Government says Fiji must remain a secular state, where there is no official religious involvement in governance and all faiths are free and equal. Other Christian churches have supported this view,
But Reverend Waqairatu says although there are many non-Christian faiths in Fiji, and the church intends to have good relations with them, it must be recognised that Fiji was ceded to God by the chiefs, meaning it was and remains a Christian country.
Reverend Waqairatu also questions the legitimacy of the Government.
The interview provides a revealing insight into the thinking at the top of the church after its recent conference and change of leadership.
Reverend Waqairatu also told Radio Australia’s Bruce Hill that the church is prepared to enter into dialogue with the Government and won’t be getting involved directly in politics under his leadership.
However, it will participate fully in the process of consultation leading to a new constitution and democratic elections in 2014.
Here’s a transcript of what Reverend Waqairatu said.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, the newly-elected President of the Fiji Methodist Church
WAQAIRATU: I did say in my first interview that the church is open to dialogue with the present government, so that is our present position and it was our position all the way that we do not retaliate on what is happening because it is wrong for the Christian principle that we do not retaliate but we forgive our neighbours, those who have done wrong to us.
HILL: Does that mean that the church now recognises the legitimacy of the … government?
WAQAIRATU: That’s a hard question too, we do not recognise their legitimacy, but we say that the legitimacy will be determined only when the democratic principle, democratic election, democratic means are formed and then the climate of which is the election of the government that is going to be the government of the day.
So we should be taking part in this registration and as well as of the election and the formation of a new Constitution.
HILL: There had been … submissions to the calling for Fiji to be an officially Christian state. What is the church’s stance on this idea of Fiji being a Christian state?
WAQAIRATU: The church is for the Christian state, that is the very first bullet point that we’d like to stress, that Fiji should be a Christian state.
Now when we say that it’s a Christian state, we have a Biblical understanding and as well as historical understanding of that, and that needs to be explained.
We look at our standpoint from the Biblical understanding of the writ or covenant in the Old Testament, because Fiji, Bruce was given to God. When it was given to God it has already established its covenant relationship with God, and that covenant relationships is eternal, it cannot be withdrawn.
So people must understand when we say that this is a Christian state, it was historically and Biblically established, and we cannot withdraw that.
So that is a misunderstanding, a political misunderstanding of our people. When we say that Fiji is a Christian state, we say that it had been decided by our Chiefs who ceded Fiji to Great Britain, that Fiji be a Christian country.
HILL: What does being a Christian country mean? In a country which has Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs and others?
WAQAIRATU: Well what we mean is this, Fiji because we have about 52 per cent are Christians, now first of all we say that the largest number of the people in this country are Christians. Now that would be numerically it is right.
Now that does not mean that we do not recognise the existence of other faiths like Islamic faith and Hinduism.
We say that this is a Christian state and we recognise also the existence of other living faiths, and we have to work out a kind of healthy relationship with them.
But we have a very definite role as mandated to us by Jesus Christ, and also being commissioned by Jesus Christ that we have to go out and evangelise, “Make all people become my disciples.”
So we recognise the existence of other faiths in Fiji. Fiji’s a Christian state. We have a responsibility to evangelise people to become Christians and that is our sole responsibility given by Jesus Christ.
HILL: If the non-Christians don’t convert to Christianity, what happens to them in Fiji if it’s going to be as you say an officially Christian state? Wouldn’t a Muslim or a Sikh or a Hindu listening to this respond with a certain degree of well fear?
WAQAIRATU: They’re not going to be forced, they are free to have their own religion, that’s what we say that the nation commits itself, this is from the point of view of Methodists, the nation, we commit ourselves and we say that this nation should be a Christian state because it was given to God already.
Whether we like it or not, this nation was given to God already when our Chiefs, the owners of this land gave Fiji to God and to Great Britain as well.
That is something that we cannot change, and this must be really understood well by all people who live in the country. Fiji was already given to Jehovah God, our Yahweh, his son is Jesus Christ and his own spirit, fullstop.