Methodists encouraged to fast for Fiji

Methodists across Great Britain and Ireland are being urged toparticipate in a day of prayer and fasting, in solidarity with theMethodist Church in Fiji.

People are being asked to abstain from food and to considerdonating the money they would have spent on food to the WorldMission Fund, which will be offering long term support to theChurch in Fiji. The Fijian Church has nominated February as a monthfor prayer and fasting. The Methodist Prayer Handbook remembersFiji on February 25 and Methodists in Britain and Ireland areinvited to join in the prayer and fasting on that date. Methodistsare asked to pray for the people, churches and government in Fiji,and a special prayer is available here

The Fijian Methodist Church is under increasing pressure from thecountry's government, led by Commodore Bainimarama, which hasforced the Church to cancel its annual Conference and choirfestivals until 2014. Local districts and circuits are also havingtheir activities restricted, with administrative meetingsbanned.

Revd Stephen Poxon, ex-president of the British MethodistConference and Secretary of the Methodist Missionary Society, said;"In the UK, it's easy to take our religious freedoms for granted.The Methodist Church in Fiji simply desires to worship God andserve the people of Fiji with their ministry, but the government'sunreasonable restrictions are making the Church's daily life almostimpossible. Through fasting and prayer, we want to show oursolidarity with our Fijian brothers and sisters."

All members of the Fiji Methodist Church Standing Committee havebeen charged with attending an unauthorized meeting (held lastApril), and have been held for questioning by police. A number ofchurch ministers have also been accused of spying on thegovernment, although the allegations have yet to besubstantiated.

The Fijian Church has requested a meeting with the government todiscuss the ban and explore alternatives. 'We are a people whobelieve in knocking,' said one minister, 'even 'til midnight!'However one superintendent was overheard saying he would holdmeetings anyway, and was reported to the military, who took him infor questioning.

Despite the pressures, the Fijian Church's chaplains continue toserve the police and the military, leading devotions frequently inchurches and barracks.

Under new legislation, speaking out against the government isdeemed treason, and sending criticisms of the regime to or fromabroad will be regarded as sedition. As any such criticism (whethermade in Fiji or abroad) is now being treated as a criminalact.

People can donate to the World Mission Fund online here, or bysending a cheque payable to "The World Mission Fund" to Fast forFiji c/o Dave Bennett, Fundraising Coordinator, at Methodist ChurchHouse, 25 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5JR.