26.08.11 17:33 Age: 192 days

WCC calls cancellation of Methodist meeting by Fiji government "unacceptable"


The Parliament of Fiji. Photo: Nikos Kosmidis

Government interference in church affairs in the Pacific nation of Fiji has been identified as a matter of profound concern by the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Pacific Conference of Churches and a meeting of Pacific church leaders, Tveit has expressed his deep concern about the blatant violation of freedom of religion by the Fiji authorities in cancelling the annual conference of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma, and in their detention of church leaders.

 “It is absolutely unacceptable that the Fiji authorities intervene in internal church decisions and affairs,” Tveit said from Samoa where he is attending the regional meeting.

According to news reports, the military government of Fiji cancelled the annual conference of the Methodist Church, saying the leadership was too political.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has said the leadership and senior members of the church were summoned by the military to hear the order, and the government unsuccessfully attempted to detain the former president of the church, Rev. Josateki Korio.

This is the third year in a row that the government has cancelled the Methodist annual conference. Authorities have also suspended the national constitution, restricted media freedom and detained other opponents.

The church remains critical of the regime.

While in neighbouring Samoa, Tveit held meetings with the Rev. Vaiao Eteuati, general secretary of the Methodist Church of Samoa. Eteuati called on the global church to put pressure on the Fiji authorities against what he calls unjust actions towards the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma.  

Tveit reaffirmed the stance of the WCC Central Committee who in 2009 proclaimed its support for the churches in Fiji. He also called Christians throughout the world to join in common prayer for the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma.

The WCC Central Committee is a governing body representing the 349 member churches of the WCC. The WCC member churches include some 550 million Christians around the world.

Read also:

Fiji government again cancels Methodist conference (ENI featured article, 25 August 2011)

WCC supports church-government dialogue in Fiji (WCC press release, 2 September 2009)