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Wednesday, 20 April 2011 19:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement

The 1997 Constitution of the Fiji Democratic Republic pledges freedom of religion and belief and the practice to proliferate religious belief in worship, education, and practice.  All communities of religious affiliation are permitted to create educational organizations at their own cost and to administer any educational organizations that they completely preserve.

Prior to its abrogation in April 2009, the constitution provided religious freedom.  The government respected religious freedom and did not limit foreign missionary activity of religious institutions.  Yet in practice, in 2005 it is reported that the ambassador of Fiji banned world religious leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon from entering the country.

The country has a population of 827,000 people.  It is estimated that 52 percent follow the Christian belief, 30 percent Hindu, and 7 percent Muslim.  Fiji is a country that holds many ethnic groups including Chinese, Europeans, Rotumans, and other Pacific islanders.  It is recorded that 60 percent of the Chinese community is Christian, and 4 percent remain in the Confucius belief.  The European community is mainly Christian.  The Methodist Church holds the most members in the Christian faith counting 218,000 members.  Many of the country’s chiefs support the Methodist Church, as it remains highly influential in the community.  The Methodist Church missionaries control several religious schools and colleges that are not financed by the government.

Fijian residents are allowed to practice religious worship both privately and publicly.  There is no state religion.  The Religious Bodies Registration Act requires religious groups to register with the government.

Even though the government generally respects freedom of religion and practice, a 2008 and 2009 incident shook the Constitution’s pledge.  The Fiji Police Force collaborated with Souls to Jesus (also referred to as the New Methodists), hosting evangelistic events in an attempt to advance police power and decrease crime.  Hindi and Muslim police officers joined the church in fear of being denied promotions or losing their jobs.

There have been reports that the military banned an annual conference for August 2009 held by the Methodist Church with 52 divisions.  The former president of the Methodist Church was detained for two days for writing a proposal for peaceful protests against the government. The Church Standing Committee had 27 members criminally prosecuted because they went ahead and continued the conference regardless of the publicized ban. In May 2009 the government commenced harassment towards Methodist pastors opposing the system.  On July 20 Ro Teimumu Kepa along with nine church ministers were arrested for violating the Public Emergency Regulations.  They were also accused to being spies for the exiled Sogosogo Duavata ni Lewenivanua government (SDL).  The government banned the Church Standing Committee from meeting after the arrests were made.  The government also banned a Methodist Church senior official’s induction service because such meetings could not take place as court proceedings were imminent.  On January 12, 2010 the government officially announced that the Methodist Church annual conferences were banned until the year 2014.

There have been reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation.  Some local traditional leaders prevented religious group meetings because they were seen as outside mainstream religions.

 

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Fiji

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 November 2011 15:07