Fiji: Government cracks down further - only Sunday worship allowed

The Fijian government has banned all Methodist Church meetingsexcept for Sunday worship in an unprecedented crackdown onreligious freedom. This includes house groups, women's prayerfellowship, choir practice, mid-week communion and youthfellowship, as well as the Church's governance meetings.

Having withdrawn the permit for the Church's annual Conference theevening before the event was due to start, the interim governmenthas now notified the Church in a letter from the Fiji MilitaryCouncil that all other meetings of the Methodist Church areforbidden. All Methodist ministers are also forbidden from leavingthe country for any meeting. The Church is responding with prayerand fasting. A planned press conference had to be cancelled lastweek because of the fear of further arrests. The Methodist Churchis the largest faith group in Fiji and the only group to receivethis treatment by the Government.

"We are gravely concerned about how this situation is developing,"said Michael King, World Church Relationships Team Leader for theMethodist Church in Britain. "Our brothers and sisters in Fiji areasking us to keep them in our prayers and to tell the world theirstory. We are worried for Fiji. We are not only worried aboutreligious freedom, but also about what the loss of other freedomsmight mean for all Fijians in this traditionally democratic islandnation."

Fiji is the subject of sanctions by Australia, New Zealand, the USand the EU and is also suspended from the Commonwealth and thePacific Islands Forum because of the Government's failure to meet adeadline for democratic elections. There are signs of unrest in thecapital Suva, with attacks on police posts and related graffiti,which is fuelling anxiety about the nation's stability. Speakingout against the Government is deemed treason, and sendingcriticisms of the regime to or from abroad is now being treated asa criminal act.

Prayer for Fiji from the Methodist Prayer Handbook 2010/11:

We pray for the people of Fiji following the country's suspensionfrom the Commonwealth;

For the Methodist Church in Fiji, that it may exercise its right tofreedom of religion and be allowed to play its part in developing ahealthy and just society for all people.