Fiji's interim government stops Methodist choir festivals

By agency reporter
August 20, 2009

In a move which shows its extraordinary sensitivity to civic movements, Fiji's interim government has cancelled a Methodist church choir competition.

Regional choir contests were due to be held on Saturday 22 August 2009 after the church agreed not to hold a full choir festival in Suva, the capital.

However, the government has now revoked a permit for area festivals to be held, reports Bruce Hill for Radio Australia.

The Rev Kerry Enright, from Australia's Uniting Church, told Radio Australia's 'Pacific Beat' show that the interim government has also refused a permit for an induction service to be held for Methodist office-bearers in Fiji.

"We believe the Fijian government is out to cripple the Methodist church in Fiji," he declared.

The Australian church believed a "deliberate strategy is being followed" to wreck the church's operations, Enright added.

The Methodist church is the largest in Fiji, with about 70 per cent of indigenous Fijians being members. Commentators say the government may see this as a threat.

According to Enright: "[I]t has been expressing concern in the past about the [Fijian] coup and some of the recent decisions."

Fijian Methodists have been very careful in their public statements and have worked with the government as far as possible, Mr Enright said.

The church had even thought an agreement had been reached and "there was to be a process of dialogue" with the authorities.

There is growing concern across the Pacific about government interference with the internal workings of the church - let alone its capacity to speak out prophetically and pastorally over major public issues.

"If a choir festival has to be cancelled, imagine what would happen if there was a big event about the impact of faith in public life," an observer told Ekklesia.

With additional thanks to Doug Hynd

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.