NEW STUDY ON INTER RACIAL RELATIONS

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Ecumenical Centre for Research Education & Advocacy 5 Bau Street, GPO Box 15473, Suva, Fiji Islands Telephone: (679) 3307 588 Fax: (679) 3311 248 Email: info@ecrea.org.fj 

News Release October 11, 2002

A new study on inter-racial relations launched today in Fiji has found an overwhelming desire for reconciliation and harmony within the country’s different communities.

The study - Participation For Peace: A Study of Inter Ethnic and Inter-Religious Perceptions in Fiji written by Dr Steve Ratuva (formerly at University of the South Pacific and now a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, Canberra) – was designed to gauge how different ethnic groups in Fiji viewed the cultures and religions of others.

The pilot study sample of 200 people in the Suva area was made up of 55 percent Indigenous Fijians, 40 percent Indo-Fijians and 5 percent other minority groups.

While the study seemed to contradict the widely held impression of a racially torn Fiji, it was clear that there are considerable difficulties facing the reconciliation process.

Aisake Casimira, Director of the Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy (ECREA), which commissioned the study, said understanding how people of different ethnic groups viewed the cultures and religions of others is vital to the peace process.

Steve Ratuva said it is evident from the findings that in Fiji’s multi-ethnic pluralistic society, people's perceptions of their own culture and symbols are very strong and complex, because they see their culture as basic to their sense of identity.

"Any attempt at peace building must necessarily involve a systematic and sensitive approach to understanding the complex aspects of identity," Ratuva said.

The study recommends more comprehensive peace research at a national level as part of the national peace building effort.

Ratuva’s research is part of the broader process of peace building being undertaken by ECREA. The study methodology used was the Participatory Peace Appraisal (PPA) technique, based on the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) technique that has recently been used by governments, universities and international institutions such as the World Bank as a means of understanding complex social processes.

Copies of Participation For Peace: A Study of Inter-Ethnic and Inter-Religious Perception in Fiji, are available for sale ($10 FJD) at the ECREA office, 5 Bau St, Suva, or contact Libby Cass, on 3307 588 or info@ecrea.org.fj to order.

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