24 September 2010

Charges dropped against Fijian Methodist Church leaders

The Fijian government has dropped most of the charges against leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji. Fijian Methodists have made contact with the Methodist Church in Britain to thank people for their prayers and support.

All members of the Fiji Methodist Church Standing Committee were charged with attending an unauthorized meeting held in April 2009 and were held for questioning by police in July last year. Now all but four of them have had their charges dropped due to 'insufficient evidence'.

Mike King, Leader of World Church Relationships, said: "The church leadership was keen to give us this heartening news and to thank the many Methodists in Britain who have prayed so faithfully for the Methodist Church in Fiji at this difficult time."

Methodists in Britain fasted in solidarity with the Methodist Church in Fiji in February after increasing pressure was put on the Church from the country's government led by Commodore Bainimarama. The Fijian government forced the Church to cancel its annual Conference and choir festivals until 2014 and prohibited local districts and circuits from carrying out their activities, including administrative meetings.

The Church is hopeful that these new developments herald a change of heart and a return to conversation instead of confrontation. It is hoped that further steps towards the normal functioning of Church governance will be achieved through talks.

Charges, however, remain outstanding against the General Secretary of the Church, Revd Tuikilakila Waqairatu, the current President, Revd Ame Tuague, and two former Presidents of the Church, Revd Manasa Lasaro and Revd Tomasi Kanailagi. Revd Tomasi was a senator in the previous government.

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