Seven Methodist Church leaders in Fiji have been arrested and questioned by the country's military government. The regime is reported to fear political discussions at the Methodists' forthcoming annual conference.
While the leaders have been released on conditional bail, the government has banned the event, scheduled for August, from taking place. The Church has responded by saying that it will go ahead despite the ban.
The arrested individuals include the Church's general secretary, Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu and a senator in the previous government, Rev Tomasi Kanailagi.
“The leadership of the Church is determined to stand against the government and has lobbied the UN regarding religious freedom and human rights” explained Christine Elliot, Secretary for External Relationships for the Methodist Church in Britain.
“It is important that we hold our brothers and sisters in Fiji, their government and all in the islands in our prayers during these challenging times” she added.
British Methodists have published a prayer regarding the situation, thanking God for calling upon them “to find your strength in our weakness” and urging his protection, guidance and wisdom for Fiji.
The Methodist Church is the largest faith group in Fiji and is said to exercise a considerable influence over voters.