Visiting Fiji following its first Conference in four years


Steve Pearce, Partnership Coordinator for Asia-Pacific writes, "At Methodist HQ I met with the Revd Tevita Nawadra, newly designated as General Secretary by the Conference, and discussed the developments within and without the Methodist Church. Holding the Conference had clearly lifted Methodist spirits and generated a feeling that progress was being made. The Standing Committee is now permitted to meet each month without further permit but police officers sit in on the meeting to ensure that the conditions (such as avoiding topics of a political nature) imposed on the Conference are not breached.

Proposals for the new constitutionwere submitted to the government by MCF, including some controversial suggestions. The submissions, from over 1,000 different groups, will now be considered by a small group appointed by the government and a draft constitution put to an elected body next year, so that elections can take place in 2014, for which voter registration has already begun.

The difficult financial situationof the Church had been outlined to the Conference, created to a large extent by government restrictions, but also by the decline in membership to 197,000. The annual levy was raised to £3 per member.

Alternative income generationinitiatives include the land registration and development, which I reviewed with the leadership. This is a five year programme currently supported by MCB both financially and through contributions from the Mission Partner; this aims to identify clearly land which has been gifted to the church and ensure it is used creatively. Some positive outcomes have been the planting of food crops, the rearing of pigs or the production of honey - all good for income in a country which imports a significant proportion of its food. It is however a slow process as land ownership is a complex community issue in Fiji very difficult to understand if you come from a Western understanding based on an individualist understanding of ownership; part of the time-consuming process involves obtaining signatures from most of the adult males in the village. Here lies a clue to the political difficulties around land ownership, since such an understanding excludes the possibility of those of Indian descent owning land.

Support for Fijian Methodists in Britainis always on the agenda of our meetings. We discussed the excellent work of Revd Jimione Kaci who is stationed in Derbyshire and supporting Fijian fellowships and congregations across Britain..."

Read the full visit report here, with information on the work of other Fijian partners such as ECREA (Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy), the Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF) mission partner Julia Edwards and Nationals in Mission Appointments postholder Peter Emberson.

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