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Methodists support church under pressure in Fiji

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The parliamentary Methodist Fellowship met recently to discuss the difficult situation facing the church in Fiji, where over 30% of the population are Methodists. Steve Pearce, the Coordinator for Asia/Pacific, outlined the difficulties that church goers are experiencing in the country. The parliamentary group comprises MPs and Peers of various political parties and were joined by Ruth Pickles, the Methodist Church Vice President.

 

There is an unelected Interim Government in Fiji led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama following a number of coups, the most recent in 2006. He has consistently delayed bringing forward the free and fair elections that would return Fiji to democracy, this in spite of international pressure through sanctions and suspension from the Commonwealth. The Commodore has been particularly punitive towards the Methodist Church because they have been overtly critical of the Interim Government and strongly condemned the coup.

 

Meetings or gatherings need specific government permission and the Methodist Church has been refused permits for most of its meetings. The annual conference this year was initially allowed then permission was refused at the last minute. Not only is this an important time when Methodists come together, but it is the main fund raising event of the year for essential services such as schools. A number of senior officials are also subject to charges under the imposed regulations and have spent time in prison.

 

It was agreed that Methodist parliamentarians will seek a meeting with the Foreign Office Minister to discuss the situation in Fiji and the impact upon Methodists.

 

Meg Munn MP, Chair of the Fellowship, said:

 

“The situation in Fiji is simply unacceptable. The basic rights of many people are being continually denied. There has been no progress towards the reinstatement of democracy and throughout this time members of the Methodist Church have been subjected to unacceptable harassment.” 

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